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Climate change puts fifth of Ireland's native plants on danger list

The Irish government has launched a major campaign to protect the country's plant life following a report that one-fifth of native species are endangered by climate change.

The authorities are to spend £11m on a five-year educational campaign which will include advertising and public information in an effort to promote lifestyle change and improvements in business practice.

Ireland has a relatively small number of native species of flowering plants, many of which have declined in numbers and even disappeared in parts of the country in recent years.

The new study by Peter Wyse Jackson, director of the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland says 171 native plant species, 20 per cent of the total flora, are vulnerable to climate change. The report warned: "There is a wide range of species that are potentially vulnerable to the predicted Irish climate changes. Natural habitats for many threatened plants may no longer be able to support their indigenous species."

Some of the endangered species have intriguing and enchanting names, including shrubby cinquefoil, Alpine lady's mantle, weasel's snout, dwarf spike-rush, corky-fruited water-dropwort and Irish lady's-tresses.

Among the culprits being held responsible are expected increases in temperatures, more frequent storms and an increase in extreme conditions such as floods, heatwaves and droughts.

The decline in plants which has already been recorded is attributed to a variety of reasons such as changing agricultural practices, mowing of roadside verges, drainage schemes, overgrazing, housing developments and the growing number of golf courses.

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Experts have already warned that harm has also been caused by the more prosaic pastime of picking wild flowers, which has led to a decline in plants such as the Killarney fern and even common species such as bluebells.

With 11 Irish native flora including the Scaly Buckler fern already either extinct or extinct in the wild, a threatened-plant conservation programme has been established to begin researching threatened species.

The government's five-year strategy, which was announced by John Gormley, the Environment minister, who is a member of the Green Party, will focus on heightening public awareness and reducing Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions.

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