‘UK’s plants now unrecognisable to your grandparents’

Native plant numbers have declined in favour of non-natives, research has found

Big Zero Report 2023

The plants known to your grandparents are not the same as the ones we see today – the reason? Climate change.

That’s according to a survey by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI), which has found that non-native species of plants in the UK are thriving, while some native plants have been suffered at the hands of both agriculture and climate change.

The study, which spanned two decades and involved thousands of volunteers counting millions of flora, found that there are now more non-native than native species in the wild.

Flora are the plants of a particular region or habitat.

One in every five plant species in the UK is threatened, with the country now one of the most nature-depleted in the world, according to Sir David Attenborough’s latest nature documentary on the BBC.

Out of 3,400 plant species recorded, more than 1,700 were non-native, with the decline in biodiversity largely due to increased agriculture and pesticides in farming, which remove land that flora grow on or alter the nutrient balance in soils.

However, warmer temperatures in the north have enabled some plants to move into new areas where they can grow but plants that live on mountain tops are declining dramatically due to decreased snowfall.

The decline in plant life has implications for insect, animal and human life, as pollinators rely on flora to feed and in turn produce food crops.

The survey’s authors have called for stronger laws to protect natural sites and extension of plants’ natural habitats through sustainable land management.

England witnessed the most significant decline in flora, followed by Scotland, while Wales had the smallest reduction in species.

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