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2768 Views 1 Reply Last post: Apr 15, 2010 11:38 AM by DrFred - Museum ID team RSS
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Apr 15, 2010 11:18 AM

What trees are really native?

I'd like to know how we define 'native' trees in Britain. How do we know which trees and plants came here thousands of years ago - do we call them native?
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    Apr 15, 2010 11:38 AM (in response to Kate)
    Re: What trees are really native?
    Its a really good question and a tough one to answer as people often have very different views as to how to define "Native". In very simple terms it could be thought of as any organism which has naturally colonised this country, as opposed to being deliberately (or even unwittingly) introduced by human agency. This definition acknowledges that the world is a dynamic changing place and that organisms distributions are not fixed - a plant found here for the first time last week could thus be regarded as Native. Many however like to only regard as Natives those organisms which have a long history in these Islands. The New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora by the BSBI  gave good definitions and a rationale for its categorisation of all of the British plants. It also largely introduced the concept of archaeophytes and neophytes (old introductions -pre 1500 A.D. and new introductions post 1500A.D.respectively) admittedly a somewhat arbitrary cut off date. From my perspective these categories have unfortunately been seized upon in an Orwellian way - old=Good, new=Bad and as a consequence many fascinating biologically and culturally significant neophyte taxa run the risk of losing conservation protection. This is very unfortunate as we often don't and possibly can never really know when, or how species arrived here! However we can be certain that some species are native because we can find their /pollen/seeds/wood, etc. preserved in peats and other sediments from pre-historic times onwards, i.e before man could possibly have brought them here. This also poses difficulties as we can see that in the fairly distant past species which we know to have been introduced here by man were once naturally present before the last Ice-Age...
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