Rare Plants Registers are only one output of the Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI). They are in effect mini floras which detail the locations, recorder and date recorded for local specialities, including the rarest of the rare. The registers, or floras, depending upon what you want to call them, are interesting since they are largely produced as a labour of love by dedicated vice-county recorders on the flora of “their” vice county.
Images come to mind of someone, elderly and bearded pouring over record cards under candle light, but the reality is (now) more modern, involving computers, databases, and some younger, clean shaven citizen scientists. BSBI has a network of such recorders, one or two for each vice-county. The vice-counties themselves are a geographic division of the UK which might mean a lot to naturalists, but not so much to the person in the street, or indeed species for that matter.
In the shape of the Cairngorms BSBI recently decided to depart from the traditional register and to produce one for an area which includes parts of nine vice-counties. Choosing the Cairngorms makes bio-geographical sense, ties in with the National Park and contributes towards landscape scale conservation.
A Landscape scale approach to conservation is a key part of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy updated in June. Like most good ideas, the concept is of course an old one. Consider the hunting preserves created for nobility; Bialoweitza Forest in Poland, without which European bison would now be extinct or the New Forest in England a preserve of the Normans. Infact the word “forest” comes from a French word connected with “wilderness”, which is why we have “deer forests” all over Scotland. A forest does not need to have trees, but now I’m really digressing.
And the Cairngorms register really must have been a labour of love for its author Andy Amphlett. Although SNH and Cairngorms National Park Authority helped with the cost of producing the Cairngorms register, the contribution does not reflect the sheer effort made by Andy. The statistics speak for themselves. Andy reviewed books, reports, museums and databases, considering more than 280,000 plant records of 1699 plant species. A total of 735 taxa qualified for inclusion within the register accounting for 19,724 individual plant records.
The Flora of the Cairngorms National Park – a rare plants register, has just been published electronically and is freely available on the BSBI Scotland website:
Blog text from Iain MacDonald, SNH, all images (c) Lorne Gill/SNH