Bournemouth University

School of Conservation Sciences

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Study reveals biodiversity loss

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Lime Tree Leaves (Dorset  UK) Good research follow-up re-visits Dorset woodland study of the 1930s

BU researcher Sally Keith has studied the woodlands of Dorset to discover how environmental change has affected biodiversity over the last seven decades.

The results of the study are published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B (FirstCite website). They show that British woodlands are more similar to each other now, when compared with 70 years ago, even though the number of plant species in each woodland has not fallen.

Sally, a PhD researcher in BU’s Centre for Conservation Ecology and Environmental Change (CCEEC), collaborated with colleagues from Natural England and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH). This is her first paper as lead author to appear in a major publication.

As part of the project, Sally re-traced the steps of Professor Ronald Good who cycled around the county in the 1930s, notebook in hand, to record the presence of trees and plants at over 7,000 sites.

The Dorset Environmental Records Centre (DERC) provided Sally and her colleagues with access to Professor Good’s original notes. The scientists also re-surveyed a subset of Professor Good’s woodland sites, visiting 86 woodlands across Dorset to record the presence of plants as they are now. They then compared the plant records from the 1930s and the 21st century to see if and how the woodlands had changed.

“We have identified the loss of unique communities within British woodlands through a comprehensive large-scale study of woodland plants,” said Sally. “The results show that we must monitor biodiversity at the landscape scale, as well as gain a better understanding of processes affecting our native flora, if we are to conserve and restore the character of the traditional British woodland.”

The CCEEC, based within BU’s School of Conservation Sciences, undertakes internationally-recognised research on environmental change and its impacts on biodiversity. The Centre is also a leading provider of education and training in conservation science.

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