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This page is no longer updated. The Macaulay Land Use Research Institute joined forces with SCRI joined forces on 1 April 2011 to create The James Hutton Institute. Please visit the James Hutton Institute website.

Thursday 5th October 2023

Conserving rare species in a changing world

An integrated study of the factors that make rare plants rare and how management can conserve them

Rob Brooker

Policy and management practice aimed at conserving rare species should be based on good scientific information. Our research into the ecology of rarity will provide the type of information that can help conserve Scotland’s rare plants. Much of the work adopts a trait-based approach – trying to identify common characteristics of rare species and understanding the implications of these characteristics for the species’ conservation: are certain traits associated with rarity, do some traits drive rarity or are they an evolved response to rarity, can we identify suites of traits that make species at particular risk from environmental forces such as climate or land-use change?

Our work on rare plants is split into a number of studies, each using a particular approach to address these common goals:

  • Development of a trait database for Scottish species. This provides us with the basic information from which we can assess patterns of traits and their relationship to rarity.
  • Individual-based evolutionary modelling. We cannot follow evolution in real time, but we can use computer models to explore whether particular traits make plants rare, or whether they might have evolved as a consequence of rarity.
  • Case studies of rare species. Do certain traits have the impacts on rare species that theory would predict, and how might we manage rare species to ensure their continued survival?

This group of work will both address fundamental ecological questions and produce information that is directly relevant to developing policy and management options to help conserve rare species in a changing world.

The endemic Scottish primrose Primula scotica commonly flowers twice during each growing season. This plant has both the seed heads from the first flowering and the flower from the later second flowering.

Contact: Dr. Rob Brooker

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