Non-flowering plants and fungi

Context

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) can be notified if they include qualifying features under the non-flowering plants criteria outlined in section 3 of the 1992 revision of Chapter 12 'Non-vascular plants' of the Guidelines for Selection of Biological SSSIs.  In Northern Ireland, ASSIs are selected on a very similar basis – the Guidelines for the Selection of Biological ASSIs in Northern Ireland is an addendum to the SSSI guidelines rather than an alternative. 
 
The groups covered by these guidelines are bryophytes (mosses, liverworts, and hornworts), fungi, lichens and charophytes (non-marine algae, also known as stoneworts).  The guidance is designed to select sites where there are important communities of lower plants, as well as rare and more threatened species.  Many sites will be selected on the basis of habitat and vegetation types e.g. bogs.  Other sites consist of habitats characteristically dominated by non-vascular plants (e.g. rock outcrops) or which may have non-vascular plants as the major interest feature (e.g. woodlands with the distinctive Lobarion pulmonariae lichen association).
 
Sites can be notified for individual species for: species listed on Schedule 8 (plants) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, Red Data Book (RDB) species, endemics, non-endemics threatened in Europe, and declining species and species at the edge of their range.
 
Sites may also be notified for combinations of species (bryophytes, lichens and charophytes) reaching a threshold value based on a scoring system, which takes account of: nationally rare, nationally scarce, Atlantic, sub-Atlantic and western British bryophytes, and 'indicator' (lichen and woodland bryophyte) species.
 
At present there are 37 bryophytes (28 mosses, 9 liverworts and hornworts), 30 lichens, 2 stoneworts and 4 fungi listed on Schedule 8 (plants) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.  This schedule is reviewed at five-yearly intervals, and therefore any additions or deletions should be taken into consideration.
 
Under Annex II of the EC Habitats Directive, the following non-flowering plants qualify as features for the selection of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in the UK: green shield-moss Buxbaumia viridis, western rustwort Marsupella profunda (a priority species), slender green feather-moss Drepanocladus (Hamatocaulis) vernicosus, and petalwort Petalophyllum ralfsii.
 

Summary statistics

  SAC A/SSSI Total
Favourable condition 33% 55% 52%
Main monitoring coverage E, S, W E, S  
Reported assessments 18 113 131
Completeness of assessments 62% unknown  
Distribution of features     UK
 

Number of assessments reported by country and site type

Country SAC SSSI/ASSI
England 11 29
Scotland 3 82
Wales 4 0
Northern Ireland 0 2
United Kingdom 18 113
 

Natura features

List of Natura 2000 interest features within this reporting category

Interest feature name  
Formal name Informal name No. of assessments reported Total no. of features % assessed
Buxbaumia viridis Green shield-moss 2 2 100%
Drepanocladus (Hamatocaulis) vernicosus Slender green feather-moss 2 10 20%
Marsupella profunda Western rustwort 4 4 100%
Petalophyllum ralfsii Petalwort 10 13 77%
 
Natura 2000 comprises Special Protection Areas (under the Birds Directive) and Special Areas for Conservation (under the Habitats and Species Directive). The list presented here includes all of the qualifying interest features under these Directives, and shows the proportion of these features for which a condition assessment has been made.
 

SSSI features

List of SSSI and ASSI interest features in this reporting category

Interest feature name  
Formal name Informal name No. of assessments reported
Bryum neodemense A moss 1
Gyalecta ulmi Elm Gyalecta lichen 1
Marsupella profunda Western rustwort 1
Physcomitrium sphaericum A moss 2
Rhynchostegium rotundifolium Round-leaved feather-moss 1
Bryophyte assemblage Bryophyte assemblage 39
Combinations of species - other groups (fungi and algae) Combinations of species - other groups (fungi and algae) 2
Fungi assemblage Fungi assemblage 6
Lichen assemblage Lichen assemblage 37
Lower plant - bryophyte Lower plant - bryophyte 5
Lower plant - lichens Lower plant - lichens 18
 
This list has not been fully standardised at a UK level yet. It is intended to show the principal constituent "feature types" for this reporting category.
 

Maps - distribution

UK distibution of reported interest features

Distribution of reported interest features.

Map showing the locations of the 10km squares in which at least one condition assessment has been reported. It does not show features that have not yet been assessed.

 

Maps - Natura

Distribution of SAC features showing assessments of favourability Condition of SAC features, with those currently reported as unfavourable-recovering shown as favourable
Current condition of SAC features
Distribution of SAC features showing assessments of favourability (where unfavourable-recovering is counted as unfavourable).
Condition of SAC features, with those currently reported as unfavourable-recovering shown as favourable
The implication of the unfavourable-recovering condition assessments is that at some point in the future these features should become favourable. This map shows the effect of that recovery by counting the favourable and unfavourable-recovering assessments together.

 

IMPORTANT NOTE: we do not have information on the timescale of the predicted recovery, which may be influenced by many past, natural and human related factors. A sustained sympathetic management regime is more likely to result in favourable condition being attained.

Key: Proportion of assessed features on 10km squares that are favourable:

Natura map legend - Key: proportion of assessed features on 10km squares that are favourable

 

Details of how these maps were produced

 

Maps - SSSI

Current condition of SSSI/ASSI features Condition of SSSI/ASSI features, with those currently reported as unfavourable-recovering shown as favourable
Current condition of SSSI/ASSI features
Distribution of SSSI/ASSI features showing assessments of favourability (where unfavourable-recovering is counted as unfavourable).
Condition of SSSI/ASSI features, with those currently reported as unfavourable-recovering shown as favourable
The implication of the unfavourable-recovering condition assessments is that at some point in the future these features should become favourable. This map shows the effect of that recovery by counting the favourable and unfavourable-recovering assessments together.

 

IMPORTANT NOTE: we do not have information on the timescale of the predicted recovery, which may be influenced by many past, natural and human related factors. A sustained sympathetic management regime is more likely to result in favourable condition being attained.

Key: Proportion of assessed features on 10km squares that are favourable:

SSSI map legend - Proportion of assessed features on 10km squares that are favourable

 

Details of how these maps were produced

 

Condition summary

Reporting category condition summary on Natura 2000 sites and SSSI

This lists the 10 different condition assessments and presents a bar chart showing the number of features within the SSSI series and the Natura 2000 series (either SPA for bird features or SAC for features other than birds). Note that for Natura 2000 we are able to estimate the number of features that have not been assessed during the 6 year reporting period - we are unable to do this for SSSI/ASSI because we do not have an overall list of notified interest features for these designations.

 

NB favourable unclassified and unfavourable unclassified have been used in this first six year cycle to get around difficulties in identifying trends in condition as common standards monitoring is implemented. It is expected that these categories will not be used for subsequent assessments of a feature.

 

Condition assessment - Natura 2000 features

The number and proportion of assessments for Natura 2000 (SAC and SPA) interest features falling into each of the condition categories
The number and proportion of assessments for Natura 2000 (SAC and SPA) interest features falling into each of the condition categories. Note that the �unfavourable� category includes all reports of unfavourable condition except �unfavourable recovering� which is shown as a separate segment.
 

Condition assessment - SSSI features

The number and proportion of assessments for SSSI/ASSI interest features falling into each of the condition categories
The number and proportion of assessments for SSSI/ASSI interest features falling into each of the condition categories. Note that the �unfavourable� category includes all reports of unfavourable condition except �unfavourable recovering� which is shown as a separate segment.
 

Adverse activities

The number of interest features where an activity has been reported as being implicated in the "unfavourable" condition of a feature
The number of interest features where an activity has been reported as being implicated in the "unfavourable" condition of a feature. More than one adverse activity may be reported for each feature.
 

Management measures

The measures summary bar chart lists the management measures relevant to the reporting category
For each "measure" the chart shows the number of interest features where that measure has been taken on a site to improve or maintain the condition of an interest feature. More than one measure may be reported for each feature assessed.
 

Interpretation

52% of non-flowering plant features reported are in favourable condition.  This is below the average for species features, and just below the average for all features combined.  55% of A/SSSI and 33% of SAC features reported are in favourable condition.  A further 7% of A/SSSI and 11% of SAC features reported are unfavourable-recovering.
 
Monitoring guidance has only been produced for bryophytes and lichens, and this was only published at the end of the first six years.  In Scotland, where the guidance was developed and tested, 39 bryophyte assemblages have been reported, together with 37 assessments of lichen assemblages.  Whilst this dataset is relatively limited, one striking difference can be observed: 79% of bryophyte assemblages have been judged in favourable condition, whilst only 30% of lichen assemblages have achieved this.  The reasons underlying this difference deserve further investigation.  One suggestion was that lichen assessments may have emphasised the potential impact of non-native species more than the bryophyte assessments.  However, there is only a slight increase in the proportion of unfavourable assessments where this is listed: 58% of unfavourable lichen assessments show this as a problem, as opposed to 50% of unfavourable bryophyte assessments.  Another possibility is that grazing pressure, which is set as a target for lichens but not bryophytes, may be a factor in the differences observed.  The reason why so many assessments show invasive species as an adverse activity is that many of the Scottish woodlands, which are strongly represented in the dataset, have problems with Rhododendron Rhododendron ponticum