New Atlas of British and Irish Flora

New Atlas of British and Irish Flora

New Atlas of British and Irish Flora

Executive Summary

The New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora was launched on 17 September 2002 at KewGardens by Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Mrs Margaret Beckett.

The 910-page volume, produced from nine million records, features 2,412 maps to illustrate the distribution of flowering plants and ferns in Britain and Ireland. The project was funded by Defra and spearheaded by the Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI) and the Natural Environmental Research Councils for the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH). The following organisations also contributed to the project: Countryside Council for Wales; English Nature; Joint Nature Conservation Committee; Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; Scottish Natural Heritage; and the Wildflower Society.

The survey builds on research carried out in the 1950s which was documented in the 'Atlas of the British Flora,' published in 1962. The New Atlas contains 750 species not listed in the previous volume.

More than 5.5m records were made between 1996 and 1999 by 1,600 volunteers from the BSBI, who visited more than 99 per cent of the 3,880 ten by ten kilometre squares of the Ordnance Survey national grids in Britain and Ireland. They noted wild plants and ferns throughout several seasons, but not those in gardens. A short appraisal of the research contract has been published.

Defra have also published The Changing Flora of the UK, a 36-page summary of the main changes in the UK illustrated by the atlas.

These include:

Decrease in species introduced to the UK in ancient times (Archaeophytes), especially arable plants such as Corn Buttercup and Corn Marigold.

Increase in species introduced in recent times (Neophytes - introduced after 1500), such as Butterfly-Bush (Buddleja) and American Willowherb.

Increase in species with a Mediterranean distribution, such as Spotted Medick and Wild Leek.

Decrease in species with a northerly global distribution, such as Cowberry and Hare's-tail Cottongrass.

Increase in species which thrive in nutrient-rich soil, and decline in those that prefer low-nutrient habitats.

The summary also suggests some explanations for change, such as increasing levels of nutrients, habitat loss caused by intensive agricultural practices and deforestation, the decline of mixed farming and the spread of plants from gardens.

The Changing Flora of the UK is based on further research to analyse the data collected for the New Atlas project. This research was commissioned by Defra, English Nature, Scottish Natural Heritage, Countryside Council for Wales, Environment and Heritage Service, and Plantlife. The work was undertaken by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, supported by the Botanical Society of the British Isles.

Copies of the New Atlas of British and Irish Flora, price £99.50 + packing and postage, can be obtained from Oxford University Press, tel: 01536 454534, e-mail:

The Changing Flora of the UK (519 KB) can be downloaded as an Adobe Acrobat (pdf) file. Further information is available on our Help page about downloading or reading Adobe Acrobat documents.