Tees Valley Nature Partnership Annual Conference

This is one of the most exciting event in the Tees Valley every year! I was lucky to connect with key local partners on previous occasion and I am sure 2023 will be no exception.

In addition to networking and hearing about the latest news from colleagues across the sector, this year Prof Diana Feliciano (Teesside University) and I are running a workshop asking the question: “Are We Achieving Climate & Biodiversity Goals in Nature-based Solutions?”

British Bryological Society visiting Teesside and South Gare

Teesside University hosted the British Bryological Society (BBS) autumn meeting and AGM on September 10th and 11th 2022. The BBS focusses on the study of mosses and liverworts, plants that can be easily ignored due to their diminutive size, but that are highly diverse and of extremely important for example for carbon capture in peatlands in nutrient cycling.

The full report of the meeting has just been published into Field Bryology no 129 (2023) and can be accessed following this link here.

Some 30 bryologists joined the 2-day meeting. On the first day, the indoor meeting featured talks by some of the biggest names in the field, including Dr Alain Vanderpoorten who came especially for the occasion from Belgium. Teesside’s very own Dr Jamie Bojko also presented preliminary results of his investigation on viruses and other microorganism in bryophytes.

On the second day, the group visited South Gare and made the largest bryophyte survey of the site to date. No less than 70 species were found, including 6 either new or not reported for Northeast Yorkshire for over 30 years. Among these rarities, one, the so-called Ribbed Extinguisher-moss appeared to be at its Southmost coastal site in Britain. Another, Warne’s Thread-moss was last seen in the area in Coatham Marshes in 1901, over 120 years ago!

South Gare is well known by botanist and other nature enthusiasts as a biodiversity hotspot of national importance. Because of this, it is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and highly protected by law since the 1970s. More recently, local botanist Dave Barlow even wrote a Flora of South Gare, but we did not have a detailed idea of bryophyte diversity at the site until now.

New paper: Bimodality and alternative equilibria do not help explain long-term patterns in shallow lake chlorophyll-a

Davidson, T.A., Sayer, C.D., Jeppesen, E., Sondergaard, M., Lauridsen, T.L., Johansson, L.S., Baker, A. and Graeber, D. (2013) Bimodality and alternative equilibria do not help explain long-term patterns in shallow lake chlorophyll-a. Nature Communication 14, 398 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-023-36043-9

First Published: 25 Janvier 2023
Since its inception, the theory of alternative equilibria in shallow lakes has evolved and been applied to an ever wider range of ecological and socioecological systems. The theory posits the existence of two alternative stable states or equilibria, which in shallow lakes are characterised by either clear water with abundant plants or turbid water where phytoplankton dominate. Here, we used data simulations and real-world data sets from Denmark and north-eastern USA (902 lakes in total) to examine the relationship between shallow lake phytoplankton biomass (chlorophyll-a) and nutrient concentrations across a range of timescales. The data simulations demonstrated that three diagnostic tests could reliably identify the presence or absence of alternative equilibria. The real-world data accorded with data simulations where alternative equilibria were absent. Crucially, it was only as the temporal scale of observation increased (>3 years) that a predictable linear relationship between nutrient concentration and chlorophyll-a was evident. Thus, when a longer term perspective is taken, the notion of alternative equilibria is not required to explain the response of chlorophyll-a to nutrient enrichment which questions the utility of the theory for explaining shallow lake response to, and recovery from, eutrophication.

PhD Opportunity: Above and below ground carbon stocks and biotic changes during rewilding

  • Deadline: 01/02/2023 5:00PM
  • Studentship code: RDS
  • Staff name: Dr Ambroise Baker
  • Contact: a.baker@tees.ac.uk
  • Start date: Successful applicants will be expected to start May or October 2023.

This project will quantify changes in biodiversity, ecosystem function, carbon stocks and their interactions during the initial phases of rewilding. At the primary field site, some 66 experimental fixed plots are set up within formerly agricultural land comprising a variety of arable, improved, and natural grasslands. Rewilding was initiated in 2022, with the cessation of agricultural activities which will be followed by large herbivore re-introduction (eg hardy free-ranging cattle and pigs). The analysis will quantify ecosystem changes in time, against baseline data collected in 2021-2022, and enable an assessment of rewilding contribution notably to net-zero and nature recovery policies.

We anticipate the project to be a unique opportunity to work with a range of collaborators inside and outside academia. We are looking for candidates with a strong interest in combining biodiversity, microbiological and environmental science, to develop novel evidence contributing to the UN decade of ecosystem restoration.

  • Important Note: This fees-only PhD Studentship covers tuition fees for the period of a full-time PhD Registration of up to four years, subject to satisfactory progress. This is not a fully-funded opportunity, unfortunately.

Applicants who are employed and their employer is interested in funding this PhD, can apply for a Collaborative Studentship.

Applications are welcome from UK, EU and International students.

Conversation in Conservation – Podcast with MIMA


A population of Pseudodictamnus hispanicus (L.) Salmaki & Siadati in Geneva, Switzerland.

Identifying a mysterious Lamiaceae from St Jean Cliffs

In July 2003, I collected and pressed an intriguing Lamiaceae while exploring the woodlands at the base of the St Jean Cliffs, Geneva, Switzerland. This was part of my personal efforts to develop my botany skills and explore Geneva’s urban biodiversity. The plant had the unusual characteristic to present ten calyx lobes, which pointed to the genus Marrubium. However, the plant did not match the only Marrubium known from Switzerland.

Asking my contact at the Geneva Botanic Garden did not lead to a specific identification neither. A few years later I brought my specimen to Reading Botanic Garden and helped by Ronnie Rutherford, I narrowed the identification to Ballota rupestris (Biv.) Vis. (syn. Ballota hispanica (L.) Benth.) of Italian origin i.e. not a Marrubium species and not a species recorded in standard Swiss Floras to my knowledge to date.

Population size and local flora

In 2003 and 2004, I returned to the site a few times because of numerous species of floristic interest present (Arabis turrita, Erysimum cheiri, Saponaria ocymoides, Tanacetum parthenium, Campanula alliariifolia, Campanula persicifolia, Smyrnium perfoliatum, Scrophularia canina)

I also revisited the site one time in winter in 2007-2009 and counted about a dozen plants of the mysterious Lamiacea in a thorough search for the plant by the path and on the slope between the path and the cliff base. Unfortunately, I lost the paper sheet with my notes from this latter visit.

Returning on the 23rd of October 2022, I can report a healthy and growing population. The path has been substantially remodelled and improved for walkers, in addition, some of the slopes have been stabilised with geotextiles. There appears to be a much larger population than I remember and also plants of variable size, possibly indicating dynamic natural regeneration by seed.

The site was surveyed systematically for the production of the landmark publication : Flore en Ville – Sites et espèces d’intérêt en Ville de Genève (Plantes à fleurs, fougères, mousses et lichens), Mombrial F., Bäumler B., Clerc P., Habashi C., Hinden H., Lambelet-Haueter C., Martin P., Price M. & Palese R., (2013). The authors list 146 vascular plants, including seven species threatened at the national level. Moreover, they highlight the exotic character of the local flora which, they go on to write, is partly due to 19th Century intentional introductions. There is historical evidence for a much more open habitat in the past and up to about 1900,and even vineyards.

Bibliothèque de Genève: https://bge-geneve.ch/iconographie/oeuvre/vg-n13x18-15019
Bibliothèque de Genève: https://bge-geneve.ch/iconographie/oeuvre/vg-n13x18-15019

The presence of Pseudodictamnus hispanicus (L.) Salmaki & Siadati certainly fits, in terms of exotism, but one can only speculate about the origin of the plant at this location. The first step to formulate a hypothesis would be thorough searches at the Herbarium of Geneva Botanic Garden and find out whether there are specimens pre-dating the one I collected in 2003. There is a very long tradition of botanising and collecting specimens to document the Geneva flora.


In 2018, Siadati et al. resolved some of the taxonomy and nomenclature within the tribe Marrubieae and created the new combination Pseudodictamnus hispanicus (L.) Salmaki & Siadati for this species, which was previously widely known as Ballota hispanica (L.) Benth. (other synonyms can be accessed e.g. here). Despite the binomial’s epithet “hispanicus”, a search in Flora Iberica strongly suggest the absence of the taxa in in the Iberic penisula. The known native distribution is restricted to “Albania, Bulgaria, Italy, Sicilia, Yugoslavia” and the plant is unknown from other countries as a non-native organism.

Within Italy, P. hispanicus is only known from the southern parts (Calabria, Campania, Puglia and Sicilia). Therefore, the Geneva population expands considerably the distribution of the species. Information included in this note also confirms a continuous presence for a period of at least 20 years at the St Jean site, supporting a long-term establishment. Until more evidence emerges, we can assume a relatively recent introduction in Geneva (19 or 20 Century) and I would recommend the status of neophyte. In addition, I propose the French name ballote douce (referring to the French name for the closely allied genus Ballota, avoiding any reference to the confusing epithet hispanicum, or other synonyms, and describing the softness of the leaves to the touch and smell, contrasting with the other Ballota taxa in the area).

The binomial’s epithet hispanicus requires commenting, given the known distribution of the taxa. The specific name is inherited from Carl Linnaeus’s publication of Marrubium hispanicum in the second volume of Species Plantarum in 1753 (p. 583). Linnaeus wrote “Habitat in Hispania” for the species. There is clearly a geographical discrepancy between distribution and name, which will be explored further in the next section. A similarly confusing binomial coined by Lineaeus is that of Scilla peruviana, a species not at all from Peru, but an endemic to the Western Mediterranean that allegedly reached Northern Europe, where it was described, on a ship called “Peru”.

A quote from C. Linnaeus (1753) Species Plantarium. P. 583. Accessible here. Showing the description for M. hispanicum. “calycum limbis patentibus: denticulis acutis” [calyx lobes patent: teeth acute].
A quote from C. Linnaeus (1753) Species Plantarium. P. 583. Accessible here. Showing the description for M. hispanicum. “calycum limbis patentibus: denticulis acutis” [calyx lobes patent: teeth acute].

Why hispanicum for this taxa

The confusing nature of this botanical name has been discussed previously during the 20th century and helpfully synthesised by Charlie Javis in 2007. The name Marrubium hispanicum L. has been applied to the Italian and Balkan taxa (i.e. what is now known as Pseudodictamnus hispanicus (L.) Salmaki & Siadati), based on a 1959 decision by the botanist Vernon Heywood to link this name to a herbarium specimen. This process of linking a name to a specimen is called “typification” in botany, the specimen becoming a “type”. Linnean names, such as Marrubium hispanicum, are typically typified retrospectively because the designation of a type specimen only became the norm in botany after c. 1900. Heywood’s typification in this case linked the name M. hispanicum L. to a specimen belonging to a species unknown from Spain.

The roots of the problem may be traced to Linnaeus’s original description in Species Plantorum, published in 1753, and potentially a poorer understanding of the range of species in this group of plants at the time. The description provided for Marrubium hispanicum matches better the Italian taxa, than the specimen within Linnaeus’s collection that is labelled as M. hispanicum. However, it is important to note that the M. hispanicum description in Species Plantarum is not incompatible with Pseudodictamnus hirsutus, from Spain, the taxa appearing on Linnaeus’s herbarium sheet labelled Marrubium hipanicum L. However, it is to be noted that Linnaeus did not work solely with his own collection of specimens and it may not be ever possible to fully clarify his exact intentions and knowledge of these taxa at the time.

We may be stuck with a confusing name, for what is a lovely species, now know to have wider distribution range.

Video Recordings of Monitoring Change During Rewilding at INTECOL 2022

The first part of the session was captured  with this video. It includes the talks by: Colin Guilfoyle, Paul Nevill, Ambroise Baker and Alan Law


The talks that followed the morning break are captured below. They include the talks by Sara King (Rewilding Britain), Christopher Sandom and our keynote Jens Svenning.


The talks were sponsored by the journal Wildlife Biology published by the Nordic Society Oikos.