The Rise & Fall of UK Wildflowers

It is estimated that there are, at present, 250,000 different wild flowers in the whole World. Of those, the UK has but a small fraction. Some say 2500, others list 4000 or more adding various other non-flowering growing static organisms.

Some of our plants are in ascendancy, but a great many others are in decline, some terminally. It is a perverse state off affairs: the plants that are proliferating (sometimes uncontrollably) are generally un-wanted, whilst the plants whose numbers are dwindling are coveted. Were it the other way around: that which was rare is now plentiful, they would still not rejoice, for it is the human spirit to support the underdog and mourn what could have been.

But it is true that a great number of plants are threatened by extinction in the UK in the coming decades and centuries. It may even be true that we have sown the seeds of our own self-destruction and are slowly watching our own passing.

Worldwide Diversity Decline

World-wide growth cannot continue un-fettered at the present rate; if we do not ourselves limit our growth then at some point there will be a calamitous 'correction' brought upon us by natural means (food shortage, hunger, water shortage, heat-exhaustion, UV exposure, etc). Much the same circumstances (un-hindered, foolish and voracious financial growth) brought about a precipitous and World-Wide monetary collapse resulting in the severe depression starting 2008. It was predicted, but ignored. The plummet was due to the sheer greed of the few, who must never be allowed by the many to operate in that same way again. If growth has to be positive, as economists keep telling us (but few environmentalists believe them) then let it be at no more than 0.1% per year. That way, we should be safe from the ravages of the rapacious for at least another 1000 years (for by then 0.1% annual growth will have resulted in a modest 2.7 fold increase, which we should be able to cope with). But even at that small growth rate, there will still come a time, perhaps in 10,000 years, when we will have also run out of people to sell our goods to, aliens not forth-coming. Left to continue at the present 5% annual growth rate catastrophic failure may result well before 100 years has elapsed [5% growth for 100 years will result in a 131 fold increase!]. However, we may have depleted some of the Earths mineral resources well before 100 years is up.

Our growth is not only crippling us financially, but is stifling the planet and killing many trees, plants and animals. Population growth must be curtailed. We must strive to find an acceptable way of achieving this, or it will be done naturally for us in a way that we will not find acceptable at all.

There will be no one cause of calamitous collapse, but rather a synergy between multitudinous contributing factors, no one of them lethal to natural diversity in isolation. Global warming causes climate shifts, some parts wetter, others drier. Floods damage many growing plants and crops. Water shortage creates drought conditions where crops struggle to grow. Prevailing winds change direction and intensity. Gales may damage crops. Local sea salinity decreases through polar ice melt. Ocean currents stall, or reverse direction. Global warming increases sea temperatures. Warmer seas hold less oxygen. Fewer sea creatures can survive reduced water-oxygen levels or elevated sea temperatures. Sea creatures die and settle on the sea bed, to decompose, further reducing sea oxygen levels. Atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolves in the ocean increasing its acidity. Fewer sea creatures can tolerate low pH levels, they die too. Fish production plummets. Biodiversity decreases. Oxygen production falls as sea algae are poisoned.

Bees of all sorts are becoming susceptible to the verroa mite World Wide, which similarly makes the bees susceptible to certain viruses. Bees are dying as a result of both verroa mite alone, and of the virii that often accompany them. Bees pollinate flowering plants and crops, without bees crops may fail. Water is required for hydro-electrical power generation, but this conflicts with water usage for the natural world. Economist and accountants encourage food producers to remove any un-productive and costly slack (reserve supplies) from their business. [Accountants do likewise with all other World commodities: electricity generation, water supply, oil production, natural gas supply, etc]. With no slack left in any one of these World commodities, any shortages caused by any factor mentioned above has a World-Wide ripple-through effect. The highest bidder gains the food, at the expense of the poorer people who may grow it. Unable to grow more food through lack of strength, food production is lost in these poorer areas of the World, leading to a downward spiral in World-Wide food production. Soon only bankers and stock exchange traders can afford the food: those very people who should have been treated for addiction before they caused global devastation of the World economy due entirely to their gambling everyone else's money down the drain. There will soon be no one left to grow food for the rich who, un-able to grow food for themselves through lack of knowledge, will perish. The meek may survive such a scenario.

Without technology (who is left who has both the electrical power and the knowledge and the money to run or build a 20 billion pound semiconductor plant) we will quickly descend into a world where mobile phones do not work, there is no television or radio, the electrical power grid ceased working a decade ago, production of batteries long since halted, the internet has gone down permanently and you are un-able to read this website. A bleak picture indeed.

But if the World pulls together, abolishes greed, abandons un-necessary air-transport, avoids over-use of automobiles, restricts work journeys to, say, less than 5 miles, and limits population growth to unity (or less for the first few dozen years) then we can drastically reduce our dependence on energy and restrict our carbon and sulfur emissions and possibly pull through. Atmospheric carbon dioxide will still continue to increase for 150 years even if all the World stopped emitting man-made carbon dioxide tomorrow, but it wont increase as much as if we did nothing.

However, I digress.

To Return to the rise and fall of UK Wild Flowers...

The BSBI distribution maps of UK wild flowers have distributions based on year. It is fairly obvious for a great many flowers that the extent of their proliferation is shrinking decade by decade. Sometimes the reduction in inhabited area is dramatic.

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