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Annual General Meeting and Bryological Symposium 2006

Hatfield, 8-10 September


Agneta Burton

School of Life Sciences (Division of Geography and Environmental Sciences), University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield AL10 9AB;

The Annual General Meeting and Bryological Symposium were held at the new DeHavilland campus of the University of Hertfordshire on 8th- 10th September 2006. The Symposium was attended by 44 people and it was a pleasure to have a number of new members, and others who had not attended an indoor meeting before, as well as members from across England, Scotland, Wales and two from mainland Europe. Some additional locally-based participants joined for the Sunday field excursion. After an extremely dry summer in the East of England provided a challenge of finding a suitable site for a field excursion, which was ably met by Alan Outen whose account of the excursion can be found at the end of this account.

Bryological Symposium

The general theme included a number of papers on bryophytes and environmental change, with presentations on experimental and field approaches to examining responses to change and for conservation purposes. In addition, presentations based on field records from home and abroad, both recent and from the past, were used to illustrate concerns and theories about species distributions. The Conversazione on Saturday evening provided an opportunity to examine and comment on poster displays of designs for the forthcoming BBS Field Guide as well as research posters, listed in the penultimate part of this account.

  • Climate change and ultraviolet radiation: effects on stream bryophytes
    Javier Martínez-Abaigar and Encarnación Núñez-Olivera
    (Universidad de La Rioja, Logroño, Spain)
  • Mosses as bioindicators of nitrogen inputs in the environment
    1,2Catherine Cooke, 1John Pearson, 2Tony Miller (1University College London, 2Rothamsted Research, Harpenden)
  • Cryopreservation – a tool for conservation
    JK Rowntree (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Surrey)
  • Recent changes in the Cornish bryophyte flora and their causes
    David T. Holyoak (Camborne, Cornwall)
  • Mosses and the African Plants Initiative: digitisation at the Natural History Museum, London
    Jo Wilbraham (Natural History Museum, London)
  • Are urban bryophytes boring? Results from King’s Lynn
    Robin Stevenson (King’s Lynn) and Mark Hill (CEH Monks Wood)
  • Saying goodbye to our Arctic? The future of snowbed vegetation in Scotland
    Gordon Rothero (Argyll)
  • Changing distributions in a changing world
    Fred Rumsey (Natural History Museum, London)

Field excursion to Flitwick Moor, Bedfordshire, 10 September 2006
Alan Outen (Bedfordshire)

I have to confess that when I was asked to suggest some possible sites for the field meeting to follow the 2006 AGM I hoped very much that Flitwick Moor in Bedfordshire would be the chosen venue!

Flitwick Moor is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a reserve of the Beds & Cambs Wildlife Trust, comprising 31 ha of acid mire, fen, open water, acidic and neutral grasslands, alder carr and oak/birch woodland. It is particularly important because the unusual flow of groundwater through the greensand under the reserve has produced a range of acidic and neutral habitats in a very small area. Peat was extracted until the mid-1950s and used mainly in purifying gas. Water from the Chalybeate springs rich in iron was once bottled and sold as a blood tonic. The pressures on the site from surrounding farmland and from water extraction by water companies are now further exacerbated by attempts to obtain planning permission to build housing on the adjacent field.

Its rich biodiversity means that this is without doubt one of the most important natural history sites in south-east England and has been long recognised as important for its bryophyte flora. James Saunders did much collecting here in the 1880s, and Tom Laflin and Peter Taylor in the late 1940s to early 1950s. The Cambridge Botany School with Harold Whitehouse made several excursions here in the 1960s and 70s and my own studies here began in 1970. With a bryophyte list of 113 species including ten species of Sphagna, Flitwick Moor has often been described as the richest bryological site in south-east England . (To put this in context Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire has a total of 110 recorded bryophyte species but is eight times the size of Flitwick Moor).

Over twenty members of the Society from across Britain and from as far away as Belgium attended the field meeting. The visit proved to be exceedingly productive and has added greatly to the knowledge of this site and further emphasised its importance. No fewer than 83 different species were observed during the day but remarkably 22 of these were additions to the list for the site. Four species and one variety were also new for the County and one confirms an old record. 43 Many of the additions were of epiphytes reflecting their recovery across SE England . Sphagnum palustre var . palustre is not uncommon here but Mark Hill also identified Sphagnum palustre var. centrale, otherwise currently known from one other site in Britain .

Tom Blockeel added four species to the County list, these being Eurhynchium speciosum, Ulota bruchii, Metzgeria fruticulosa and Cololejeunea minutissima. He also found Orthotrichum tenellum (the first Bedfordshire record since 1892). Richard Fisk collected Ulota phyllantha , (a species with just one other known Bedfordshire site). Other additions to the site list were Bryum moravicum, Cryphaea heteromalla, Didymodon sinuosus, Eurhynchium striatum, Hylocomnium splendens, Hypnum resupinatum, Isothecium myosuroides ( found by Mark Lawley), Orthotrichum affine (found in at least 15 different places!) , O.lyelli, Polytrichum longisetum (determined by Mark Hill), Pseudotaxiphyllum elegans, Rhynchostegium confertum, R. riparioides, Chiloscyphus pallescens, Metzgeria furcata and Pellia endiviifolia. The overall list for the site therefore now stands at 109 mosses and 26 Hepatics, an overall total of 135 species. Forty-nine species of fungi were also recorded during the day of which four were additions to the site list. My thanks to all those who contributed records making this such a successful event.

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