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Wild flower habitat. © Olivia Bailey/FFI

Wild flower habitat. © Olivia Bailey/FFI

Wild flower habitats

Wildflower habitats are as varied as they are beautiful; from European meadows populated with delicate species such as melancholy thistle and wood cranesbill, to the astonishingly biodiverse Cape Floristic Region in South Africa, with its bold proteas and pincushions.

Wildflower habitats have immense cultural, ecological and economic value, and are an integral part of our natural world.

What animals live in wildflower meadows?

Wildflower meadows are vital havens of biodiversity that support a huge variety of species, big and small. Butterflies, grasshoppers, bees and other insects thrive on these habitats, supporting the food chain of small mammals, birds and large grazing animals.

Why are wildflower meadows disappearing?

Although many wildflower habitats have benefited from careful custodianship in the past, today human intervention is making it increasingly difficult for them to survive. An alarming 97% of wildflower areas in the UK have disappeared in the last century.

Land-use change – particularly conversion of biodiverse habitats for agriculture and livestock – is one of the main drivers behind these declines, exacerbated by the shift from small-scale, low-intensity farming (which can actually foster floral diversity) towards large-scale, intensive methods that favour high-impact technologies, excessive use of herbicides and pesticides and inappropriate grazing patterns.

This widespread change in land use is also fragmenting the wildflower habitats that still remain, which in turn makes it harder for individual species to survive and reproduce – especially in the face of other threats such as climate change and disease outbreaks.

In the case of South Africa’s unique and irreplaceable wildflower landscapes, the unrivalled floral diversity of the Cape region is threatened by a combination of land conversion for agriculture and wine production, invasive alien species, uncontrolled burning, overharvesting and urbanisation.

How is Fauna & Flora protecting wildflower habitats?

The protection of flora – as our name suggests – is integral to our international conservation work. Groundbreaking initiatives throughout Fauna & Flora’s long history have included the community-led Indigenous Propagation Project to combat the unsustainable harvesting of snowdrops and other bulbs in Turkey, and the subsequent publication of the Good Bulb Guide. We also helped to halt the decline in Malta’s native flora and shone the spotlight on the trade in wild orchids.

More recent examples of our efforts to conserve wildflowers and their habitats include the promotion of cost-effective land management and traditional farming practices in Romania’s Transylvania region, and our support for sustainable harvesting in South Africa’s Cape Floral Kingdom – helping the habitat while developing livelihoods.

Tulip research in Kyrgyzstan © Ormon Sultangaziev / Fauna & Flora

Tulip research in Kyrgyzstan © Ormon Sultangaziev / Fauna & Flora

Tulip research in Kyrgyzstan.

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