Vascular plants increasingly threatened – conservation also generating results
Photo: Veikko Salonen
During the last ten years, the number of vascular plant (Tracheophyta) species classified as either threatened or Near Threatened has risen by 46. These include species growing in shoreline meadows and sands, mires and traditional rural biotopes, and on fells, eskers and calcareous rocky outcrops. Threat factors vary: the overgrowing of shorelines, meadows and esker forests, the exploitation of mires and gravel reserves, construction, and global warming.
Red List of Vascular Plants (Tracheophyta)
|Threatened (categories CR, EN, VU)
|Near Threatened (NT)
Exploitation of mires increases the threat to mire plants
The number of threatened mire plants is increasing due to logging and drainage maintenance in spruce mires and pressures to harvest peat in pristine mires. There were 20 threatened and 10 Near Threatened species of mire plants in the nationwide evaluation. Regional assessment carried out at the same time classified about a further 40 species as threatened in Southern Finland. In total, this amounts to over half (55%) of all plant species that grow primarily in mires.
Declining mire plants that have become threatened include the Spoonleaf Sundew (Drosera intermedia), Early Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata) and Common Cottongrass (Eriophorum brachyantherum). Species now classified as Near Threatened for the first time include the tiny Bog Orchid (Hammarbya paludosa), which grows in fens, and the Softleaf Sedge (Carex disperma), which is found in spruce mires.
Decline in Mountain Everlasting (Antennaria dioica) and meadow plants
Mountain Everlasting (Antennaria dioica) and Mother of Thyme (Thymus serpyllum), which grow in dry meadows and on the dry, sunny slopes of eskers, are some of Finland’s key species of flora. Many threatened insects are dependent on them. The dramatic decline in Mountain Everlasting (Antennaria dioica) can be seen in, for example, the statistics produced by the National Forest Inventory (NFI). Both these plants, which are classified as Near Threatened, are still a fairly common sight on roadside verges. However, lupins (Lupinus polyphyllos), which are gradually taking over Finland’s roadsides, pose a real threat to these and many other meadow plants that have found sanctuary on roadside verges.
Conservation efforts have helped the Lady’s-slipper Orchid (Cypripedium calceolus), Hazelwort (Asarum europaeum) and French Meadow Rue (Thalictrum aquilegiifolium)
Dedicated efforts towards conducting research, taking inventories, establishing conservation areas and habitat management are also generating results. Twelve species that were classified as threatened in the 2000 evaluation can now be classified as Near Threatened. The status of the Lady’s-slipper Orchid (Cypripedium calceolus), for example, has improved thanks to EU-funded surveys and closer cooperation with forestry organisations, particularly in the species’ northern area of occupancy. The majority of Hazelwort (Asarum europaeum) populations are protected and grow in managed habitats. The threat status of the French Meadow Rue (Thalictrum aquilegiifolium), which depends on a sole population, was also downgraded.
Impact of climate change needs monitoring
Global warming is affecting Finnish flora in many ways, especially on fells and seashores. As the birch belt moves higher, overgrowing and the invasion of shrubs on bare fell areas increases. And as the amount of winter rainfall rises, the nutrient load that washes from catchments into waterways also increases and exacerbates the eutrophication of waters and shorelines. A higher frequency of iceless winters is also fuelling the overgrowing of shoreline meadows. Salt patches and their specialised vegetation, such as the Common Glasswort (Salicornia europaea), are in danger of disappearing due to overgrowth and increased precipitation.
- Senior Researcher Terhi Ryttäri, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), tel. +358 (0)400 148 692
- Conservation Manager Sirkka Hakalisto, North Karelia Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, tel. +358 (0)40 827 5475