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Juniper in crisis – a last stand?

Juniper is old, really old.

It has been around for 270 million years and a lot has happened to life on Earth during that time including the breakup and movement of the great land masses. Oh and the odd mass extinction or two.

So when scientists warn of Juniper now becoming threatened across much of lowland and southern Europe, surely it’s just a load of whinging hype to get more funding right?

Wrong.

  1. England in particular has seen juniper under threat from a variety of sources including over-farming and disease. As the number of bushes decreases, so pollen has further to travel limiting the opportunity for diversity. So should we be concerned?
  2. Juniper isn’t just a plant, it forms part of an ecosystem. A juniper stand (a collection of bushes) can act as a nursery for other plants and in studies on the central grasslands of Hungary it has been seen providing shade for light sensitive plants. In a study in Eastern Poland, juniper provided environment for other plants to become established and seedlings to be protected from grazing.
  3. There is a very real fear of a collapse in juniper distribution as stands become more isolated, their genes do not diversify and the remaining stands can end up with older less fertile and male patches/stands which could die out. We just don’t know the consequences of this.

My (uneducated) guess is that juniper will be fine. Somewhere, somehow it will hang on and eventually prosper although it may be after we are long gone.