Plants are essential to everyone's lives. Welcome to Plantlife.

The fate of our flora

New GSPC report reveals how the UK is measuring up against global targets.

October 15 2014

Adopted by the UK government in 2002, The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) laid down 16 targets to achieve by 2020.  Published on the eve of their 25th anniversary, Plantlife’s new report analyses the progress. The answer? Not doing too badly... but some major hurdles to overcome.

On target:

  • The UK probably has the best documented flora in the world, with nearly 6,000 species of flowers, mosses and lichens mapped and monitored. This is an incredible conservation achievement; there are just 557 butterflies, birds and bees in the whole of Britain.
  • Over 75% of our threatened flora is stored in seed banks and seeds and plants are being used to restore populations in the wild.
  • 96% of our globally significant Important Plant Areas (IPAs) such as the New Forest IPA, are covered by statutory protection.

Below target:

  • Major habitats are not being managed well enough. Just 4% of our woodland, 8% of heathland and 11% of grasslands are in ‘favourable’ conservation condition.
  • 95% of threatened plants in England and Wales are found on farmland and in woodland, yet current agri-environment schemes are largely failing these species
  • Threatened species continue to decline: 72 species, including golden-eye lichen and corn marigold, are not prioritised for action.  Some that are, like spreading bellflower and field gentian, continue on the path towards extinction.
  • Occurences of invasive non-natives such as Amercian skunk-cabbage have doubled in the wild, piling pressure on wildlife sites. And they are still on sale...
  • Our experts are as threatened as the plants and fungi they work hard to conserve. There are more Pandas in British zoos than there are lichenologists employed by agencies, museums and botanic gardens.

Dr Trevor Dines, one of the report authors explains: "Our wild plants – from the known and beloved to the secret and slimy – are nature’s building blocks and we ignore them at our peril. The UK has the knowledge and expertise, so why aren’t we seeing a recovery in our flora?  The clear message from this report is management, management, management – protection is is not enough.  The support of Government is vital in helping the myriad organisations working towards GSPC achieving success."