Information and Advisory Note Number 48 Back to menu
This note incorporates a list of plant species occurring in Scotland ranked in order of priority under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. It also details and defines, for use in SNH, the terms used for the priority categories. These terms are derived from a number of sources, including Red Data Books (RDB). There have been recent important amendments to RDB categories and these are also explained in the following paragraphs. This note is intended also to bring about common usage of terminology within SNH, in line with that being adopted by other relevant agencies in the UK. For the purposes of this note, "plants" includes all vascular plants, bryophytes, freshwater algae and also fungi and lichens. An Information and Advisory Note (No. 49) on priority animals complements this note.
The UK Government published "Biodiversity: the UK Action Plan" in January 1994. A "summary report" was published at the same time. Both set out the 59 steps to be taken by Government and its agencies towards achieving objectives. However, there is sometimes a difference in the expression of intent between the text of the main report and the summary of objectives. SNH is adopting the priority order set out in step 33 (listed below) for species for which action plans are to be prepared and implemented.
A definition of these terms, which has been adopted by SNH, is set out below.
(i) Globally threatened species.
This term is to be used in respect of species which are recorded as such in the most recent lists published by either IUCN or the World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
(ii) Threatened endemics.
Endemism will be based on the most recent authoritative taxonomic statement. This category is to be used in respect of endemic species included in accepted Red Data Books. Normally, we would include sub-species but not micro-species. However, some species of Sorbus, Euphrasia, Taraxacum and Alchemilla are included in the vascular plant RDB and so are accepted here.
(iii) Scheduled and annex species.
Listed in British legislation.
(iv) Endangered/vulnerable species in RDB.
Revisions to RDB categories (see below) will require this to be revised to include all "threatened" species in RDB.
As a follow up to the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, "Biodiversity in the UK: the Steering Group Report" was published in December 1995. This contains action plans for 116 species (list 1) and a list of 286 (list 2) species for which it is recommended that action plans be prepared. It should be noted that not all of these species would qualify under the categories explained above. The Steering Group selected species by the criteria below, explained in full in the report:
IUCN has recently (November 1994) adopted a new set of threat categories and
quantitative criteria for use in red data books. They have also recognised
three distinctly different types of listing at the national level. The first are
national red lists. These provide an assessment of the risk of extinction within
the country i.e. an estimate of threat status at the national level. In our
case, "national" level is taken as being for Great Britain only. Secondly, there
is a conservation value list This will contain species on the basis of a
combination of their national threat status, global threat status and
international importance. Finally there is a conservation action priority list.
This will always be based on the conservation value list but will be tempered by
a number of other factors such as available resources, legislative
considerations, practicalities of conservation, and cultural values. The term
red data book (or list) should now only be used for the first type of list. Some
publications previously called red data books are now more correctly referred to
as conservation value lists, for example the red data book on birds.
Red Data Books already exist for a number of plant and animal groups in the UK. They are based entirely on the previous IUCN guidelines and threat categories. The new classification will be applied to all newly produced or revised red data books. However, for the foreseeable future there will be a dual system in operation until existing RDBs are updated. JNCC have produced a provisional re-assignment of species to new RDB categories; this is available from IBB for internal use only. This was produced by JNCC in July 1996.
The current list of published red data lists for plants are as follows:
Perring, F.H. & Farrell, L 1983. British Red Data Books-1. Vascular plants 2nd edition. RSNC, Lincoln.
Stewart, N.F. & Church, J.M. 1992. Red Data Books of Britain & Ireland: stoneworts. JNCC, Peterborough.
Ing, B. 1992. A provisional red data list of British fungi. Mycologist 6 (3), 124-128.*
(* - the assessments in this provisional list have now been largely superseded by reassessments using new IUCN criteria).
Red Data Books for vascular plants (3rd edition), bryophytes and lichens are in advanced stages of preparation at JNCC and . will be published in 1996/97. A full Red Data I Book for fungi will be considered in due course.
The following table provides a comparison of the old and new IUCN Red Data Book threat categories.
Extinct Extinct Extinct in the wild
Endangered Critically endangered Endangered
Rare (No direct equivalent)
(No direct equivalent) Low risk:
ditto near threatened
nationally scarce nationally scarce
Indeterminate Data deficient
Insufficiently known Data deficient
The application of the new criteria to plants in the UK will mean that many species may change from one category to another in the national red lists. In some cases, a lack of reliable information will mean that they move into the data deficient category.
The criteria relating to selection of SSSIs on the basis of vascular plant interest are set out in chapter 11 of the "Guidelines for the selection of biological SSSI's". Those for non-vascular plants were published in a separate volume. In both cases, the first two categories for consideration for site selection are species on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (as amended) and those in Red Data Books. The third category is that of species combinations and is based on a scoring system. The points in the system relate to Schedule 8 species and then to those of nationally rare and nationally scarce species. Lists of these species are provided in the guidelines But are based on the occurrence in 10km squares (1-15 for the former and 16-100 for the latter). Clearly, the distribution and abundance of plants will change and hence the lists will change also. The recent publication of Scarce Plants in Britain (Stewart et al., 1994) has re-assessed the status of this group of plants. This should now be taken as the definitive statement on scarce plants rather than the outdated list published in past guidelines. There are further criteria for selection involving, for example, endemic species, micro-species and those threatened at the European level. Acceptance in these categories is based on accepted lists for which JNCC is the arbiter. Revised lists of plants are expected from JNCC in revised SSSI guidelines and the "Pink Book of Plants" in 1996.
In most plans an attempt is made to evaluate features of significance which need
to be taken into account in setting objectives or carrying out operations on the
ground. Detailed guidance on this is set out in a previous NCC publication (NCC,
1988). Importance is assessed at the international, national and regional level.
It is vital to have a consistent approach to this in SNH. Plant species should
only be deemed to be of international or national significance if they meet the
definitions set out below.
(i) Internationally important.
To qualify under this criterion the species has to be identified as globally threatened or included on a relevant Annex to EC legislation or international agreement or convention to which the UK is a signatory. Additionally, this status will be accorded to those species for which the UK holds a significant part of the world population. The assessment of the latter situation will be based on a) internationally agreed criteria or b) in the absence of such criteria, species for which the UK is believed to hold at least 25% of the world population or range based on published evidence. It thus includes all those endemics that are not included in RDBs.
(it) Nationally important.
This is not a Biodiversity Action Plan category but we have identified such species on the basis of a) presence on relevant schedules to
UK legislation and b) listed as threatened in accepted UK red data books. "Nationally" refers to Great Britain only, that is England, Wales & Scotland but not Northern Ireland.
In the course of commenting on routine casework and in preparing a precognition for a public inquiry, staff may have occasion to make reference to the status of species which form part of the interest of the site in question. Again there will be overlap between the use of new and old criteria produced by IUCN. It is also necessary to take a consistent approach throughout the organisation. Until revised RDB are published, reference will have to made to a published status but, after consultation with Regional Advisory Services or RASD (to ensure conformity of approach), the provisional re-assignments may be referred to. The definitions set out in the preceding sections should be used.
List 1 provides a synopsis of plants occurring in Scotland ranked according to
the Biodiversity Action Plan categories. List 2 sorts the same information
alphabetically within taxonomic groups. These do not attempt to list all plant
species but only those that fail into the top four BAP categories and that are
included on lists 1 and 2 of the Steering Group report. The lists will be
revised on receipt of further information.
Column 1 - Taxon The species in the tables are grouped in the order of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan priorities.
Column 2 - Biodiversity Action Plan rank Each species is attributed a number coded as follows:
1 - globally threatened
2 - threatened endemics
3 - international/UK schedules
4 - red data book species
5 - others
Column 3 - DoE list. If the species occurs on list 1,2 or 3 of the DoE steering group report, this is indicated. All list 1 and 2 species are identified regardless of BAP rank.
Column 4 - Source. The source for the BAP rank attributed to a species is given. These have been derived from:
WCMC - World Conservation Monitoring Centre lists (for globally threatened spp.) JNCC - JNCC Plant Conservation Strategy HSD - listed on Annex II & IV of the Habitats Directive.
WCA - listed on schedule 8 of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act as amended RDB - listed in a published Red Data Book DoE - listed on list 1 or 2 of the BAP steering group report if not in any of the categories above.
Column 5 - Red Data Book status
The following abbreviations are used:
Ex = extinct
E = endangered
V = vulnerable
R = rare
I - indeterminate
Sc = scarce
At this stage, only entries from the published RD lists have been given here. Revised entries will be added as new RDB, using the revised criteria, are published. In the interim, provisional re-assignments of plant species to new categories, made by JNCC, are available from RASD or Regional Advisory Services.
Columns 6&7- 10km squares. The number of 10km squares in which each species occurs is indicated for Scotland and for GB as a whole. These figures are derived from a number of different sources. Most vascular plants and bryophytes are derived from an unpublished JNCC report from the Biological Records Centre. Scarce species have been updated from published data in Stewart et al. 1994. A few critical species not present in either source have been updated from original SNH survey data. Records of algae (charophytes) were taken from the stonewort Red Data Book. Other information has been derived from contract reports, from specialists and from personal knowledge. For some groups, especially fungi, detailed information is not readily available. Wherever possible the foregoing information has been revised or augmented in the light of information derived from reports received under SNH contracts.
Column 8 - SNH Region. The occurrence of species in SNH Regions is indicated where known. Regions shown in parentheses indicate that that records are doubtful or the species is now thought to be extinct in the region in question.
Columns 9&10- International status. The status of species in respect of the appendices of the Bern Convention and Annexes of the EC Habitats Directive has been checked against the most recent texts.
Columns 11 &12- UK protection. Inclusion on the relevant schedule of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act (as amended) and the 1994 Conservation (Natural Habitats &c) Regulations are indicated.
Anon, 1994. Biodiversity: the UK Action Plan
(Cm2428). HMSO, London
Anon, 1995. Biodiversity: the UK Steering Group Report. HMSO, London.
Dring, J.C.M., 1994. Support for the national Biological Records Centre 199374: first annual report. Part 3 Summaries of species occurrence. JNCC Report No. 187. JNCC, Peterborough.
IUCN, 1983. List of rare, threatened and endemic plants in Europe. Council of Europe, Strasbourg.
Hodgetts, N.G., 1992. Guidelines for the selection of biological SSSIs: non-vascular plants. JNCC, Peterborough.
NCC, 1988. Site management plans for nature conservation: a working guide. NCC, Peterborough.
NCC, 1989. Guidelines for the selection of biological SSSIs. NCC, Peterborough.
Palmer, M., 1994. A UK Plant Conservation Strategy: a strategic framework for the conservation of the native flora of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. JNCC, Peterborough.
Stewart, N.F., Pearman, DA & Preston, C.D.(Eds.), 1994. Scarce plants in Britain. JNCC, Peterborough.
Dr Vin Fleming, Dr Chris Sydes
Research and Advisory Services Directorate
Scottish Natural Heritage
2 Anderson Place
EDINBURGH EH6 5NP
Tel: 0131-447 4784
Dr Fleming, Dr Sydes and
Lynne Farrell and Dr Martin Gaywood
(all at above address)
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