The spreading bellflower, Campanula patula is a native plant species that has undergone a dramatic decline in the UK. It is now critically endangered in Wales and a priority species for conservation. Our research combines field and genetic approaches to monitor the status of the spreading bellflower.
Part of conservation is being aware of the current numbers, distribution and habitat of a species. By completing monitoring surveys we can assess the current populations and compare this to past records to investigate historical distribution and decline of the spreading bellflower.
We also want to understand the genetic diversity of UK populations. Genetic diversity is one measure of biodiversity important to conservation. Populations with reduced genetic diversity can be less healthy, and less adaptable to changes in their environment. By investigating the genetic diversity of the spreading bellflower, we can start to create an effective conservation plan.
We have surveyed the current populations of the spreading bellflower, which are mostly in the Welsh border area. By using samples from both herbarium specimens and the current populations, we can examine the level and pattern of genetic diversity of existing populations with those from 100 years ago.
Our results are showing that the spreading bellflower has been in decline every decade since the early 1800s, and its geographic range has contracted and fragmented. The genetic data show an overall loss of diversity over time. The picture presented by the genetic and field data show that some populations may not be able to recover from decline and that it may be necessary to reintroduce or supplement these plants.