National Plant Monitoring Scheme
Enclosed below is a short article written by Dr David Parker about the National Plant Monitoring Scheme recently undertaken at Heswall Golf Club:
The National Plant Monitoring Scheme at Heswall Golf Club
Dr David Parker CEcol FCIEEM
National Plant Monitoring Scheme Volunteer
The National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS; http://www.npms.org.uk/) aims to survey plant species across different habitats in the UK. It started in 2016 and the data collected from the survey allow us to look at the abundance and diversity of plants and help us to understand the health of different habitats over time. This citizen science scheme is run by the wild plant charity Plantlife working with a number of partners including the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI), the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). The plant recording itself is carried out by volunteer botanists.
Why is it needed?
Plants are the foundation of our habitats and ecosystems. Unlike other species groups that have been monitored for many years, we have previously been lacking a good measure of changes in wild plant populations across the country. Through detecting changes in plant species and abundance, the NPMS can provide information on the impacts of our changing climate, air pollution and land-use change. Birds, insects and other fauna rely on wild plants for their existence and, through our crop-plant pollinators such as bees, we do too.
How does it work?
Heswall Golf Club sits within part of a randomly allocated 1km Ordnance Survey grid square (SJ2679), one of about 1500 such squares across the UK. The scheme involves recording wild plants in five fixed plots within the 1km square. There are three plots on the golf course and two on the salt marsh of the adjacent Dee Estuary. The golf course locations are two 5 x 5 metre plots in the grassland rough to the south of the 5th fairway, with plot 4 closer to the green and plot 5 closer to the tee.
Plot 4: 5 x 5 metre grassland plot marked out with tape. View NW, September 2019.
Plot 5: 5 x 5 metre grassland plot marked out with tape. View NE, June 2019.
The third location is a linear plot of 25 metres long and 1 metre wide along the edge of the pond on the 7th fairway (between the yellow posts), covering the pond edge vegetation.
Plot 3: the 25 x 1 metre linear recording plot. View SW, September 2019.
As an NPMS volunteer I was allocated the grid square containing Heswall Golf Club and set up the three plots in May 2016. The grassland plots are relocated using GPS. I monitor the plots twice a year, once in late spring/early summer and the second in late summer/early autumn. I record all the species of wild plants, make an estimate of their ground cover, and photograph the plots. I have recorded a total of 48 species across all the plots and, although none of these are rare, the range of species is good and includes birds-foot trefoil, bulbous buttercup and at least ten species of grass in the grassland plots. Along the pond edge there is a good mixture of water-loving plants including water mint, unbranched bur-reed and water-plantain. There are also beds of sea club-rush, indicating a salt-water influence from the adjacent estuary.
What happens to the plant records from Heswall Golf Club?
I send all the data on-line to NPMS where they are brought together with all other data from the 1500 other 1km squares from across the UK. There are now five years of data and, for example, the Heswall Golf Club grassland records will be collated with those from all other grassland plots in the UK and this provides the means to look for changes in grassland/meadow wild plant species and their abundance over time. NPMS is a long-term project which is planned to run for decades into the future and, with this long-term data, it will become increasingly valuable, providing a critical tool to assist government, agencies and planners in their work to deal with our changing world. NPMS is grateful to Heswall Golf Club for supporting this important work.