Thoughts, news and updates from members of the Plantlife team.

CENNAD Lichen Apprenticeship Scheme Update

January 25 2017 - 17:49

The CENNAD Lichen Apprenticeship Scheme is now in its tenth month and the apprentices have been busy!

The most recent event, the third CENNAD training day, took place in December at Ynys-hir RSPB reserve. 15 apprentices and 3 mentors and supported by 2 volunteers came along and to listen to presentations, take part in discussions and a join a guided walk around the reserve - nicely rounded off by of with mince pies and mulled wine by the wood stove courtesy of the RSPB.

Over the winter, each local CENNAD group has been asked to create a basic lichen identification guide for beginners including illustrations or photos of key features of epiphytic lichens. The aim is that people new to lichens can use the guide alongside a field key to identify species in the field. Each local group brought their guide to the training day for feedback and the apprentices voted on which they thought was the best. The guide produced by North West Group was the winner and will soon be available on the Lichen of Wales website as the first CENNAD resource to be created by the apprentices.

Above: CENNAD apprentices in Ynyshir Reserve car park examining Arthonia vinosa

CENNAD is benefitting from significant support from its partners, including free access to reserves, use of facilities and equipment, including Aberystwyth University providing use of portable dissecting microscopes at training sessions. An Aberystwyth University student has recently joined Plantlife Cymru on work placement assisting CENNAD and other Plantlife Cymru projects.

As CENNAD apprentices are gaining confidence, it’s great to see individuals willing to share their knowledge and enthusiasm. Apprentices are offering an introductory walk to lichens as part of the Vale of Glamorgan walking festival in South Wales; and in North Wales providing an introductory talk and walk for volunteers at Treborth Botanical Gardens (Bangor University), a CENNAD partner. 

In November, two CENNAD Groups were provided with interesting opportunities to expand their learning. The South West Group, with Pembrokeshire Fungi Recording Network, joined lichen expert Paul Cannon and the KEW Lost & Found Project team at Stackpole NNR and Picton Castle in Pembrokeshire. They had a fruitful search with some great finds including the nationally rare Heterodermia leucomela.

Above: Heterodermia leucomela, Conservation Status: EN (Endangered) Nationally Rare Section 7 species – Wales (Environment Bill 2016)

The North West Group were invited to join Allan Pentecost (Author of Lichen Flora of Gwynedd) for a day looking at lichens around Victoria Falls, Llanberis in Snowdonia. The apprentices really appreciated hearing about his recording experiences, and about the range of lichen specie found in old oceanic woodlands. 

Above: CENNAD NW Apprentices Group and Allan Pentecost lichen fossicking in Snowdonia

Field training visits for each recording group are currently taking place with support of local mentors, providing continuity and learning between formal training sessions. A herbarium has been created containing specimens that the apprentices have identified, verified by mentors, and is circulating between the local groups to share and extend new found knowledge. With training days planned for March and May this year, the apprentices are looking forward to building on their skills throughout 2017. 

What effect will Brexit have on the natural environment?

The Environment Audit Committee have published their report on the potential effect of leaving the EU on the natural environment. Here's our thoughts...

January 04 2017 - 15:27

Today, the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) published their report on the potential effect of leaving the EU on the natural environment. It is not a comfortable read, warning of a dystopian future of “zombie legislation”, a “triple jeopardy” in trade relations and unclear subsidy objectives all putting at risk the hard-won improvements to our natural environment.

Plantlife fully supports the call for a new Environment Protection Act to ensure our wildlife is effectively protected. Before Article 50 is triggered at the end of March, Ministers need to make a clear commitment to new legislation that will build on the environmental protection our EU membership has established and to avoid sleep-walking into an uncertain future that is bad for our wildlife, our farmers and the public. The government’s long awaited 25 year plan must go beyond warm words if the Conservatives are to realise their manifesto commitment ‘to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it found it’.

Intensive farming is the key issue impacting our wildlife, as the recent State of Nature report clearly demonstrated. In Plantlife’s recommendations to the EAC inquiry in September 2016, we called for a radical rethink of rural land management in Britain; leaving the EU presents us with an opportunity to do things very differently. But such reform takes time and, in the vacuum of uncertainty, much environmental damage can be done; in previous rounds of CAP reform some flower-rich grasslands and meadows were ploughed up to avoid a loss of flexibility in future farming practises. 

In 2013, we published a series of “And on that farm he had...” reports looking at agriculture and wildlife in England, Scotland and Wales. It’s heartening that many of the core recommendations in these reports are included in the new EAC report, such as the need for detailed management options to be available as targeted landscape-scale packages that can deliver demonstrable outcomes for priority species and habitats.

The future environmental landscape must support an integrated and sustainable rural economy. As Dr Trevor Dines set out in his speech at the launch of the State of Nature report, we must work closely with farmers to support them in rebuilding nature for the clear benefits this provides to us all. To do this will mean a shift away from the current perverse flat subsidies for land owners to one where willing farmers are supported with well targeted advice to deliver the benefits the public wants. There are plenty of examples of where this occurs – such as our work to locate Important Arable Plant Areas in England and Wales and direct good agri-environment scheme management to these sites. No doubt we’ll hear others at the #RealFarmingConference later this week.

But in order to achieve this, the Secretary of State for the Environment, needs to set out her plan of a properly resourced approach to improving our natural environment.  

Andrea Leadsom has until the end of March.