NPMS materials on the grass
National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS)

Science challenge

Plants are the foundation of our habitats and ecosystems. Unlike other species groups that have been monitored by naturalists at small scale for many years, we have previously been lacking a good measure of changes in plant populations across the country. Understanding the effects of growing pressures on our wild plants, populations and habitats is a big task, but the growing NPMS dataset is starting to allow us to investigate these impacts. 

Project summary

The National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS) is a volunteer recording programme involving keen amateurs with varying levels of botanical expertise. Each participant chooses a 1 km square from the available randomly selected set. Within this square, volunteers record either all species, or sets of habitat-specific indicator species (depending on their level of experience), in around five plots in semi-natural habitats. Volunteers aim to complete two surveys each year.

The National Plant Monitoring Scheme complements existing abundance-focused recording schemes, including those for the UK’s birds and butterflies, and helps us to understand more about how the countryside is changing.

NPMS project partners are: Plantlife, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Northern Ireland), and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mascula) taken by Pete Stroh (BSBI).

External website


  • To provide data on indicator plant species and habitat quality, and how they are changing over time
  • To produce national indicators of habitat quality
  • To engage volunteer naturalists with plant communities and habitats at small scales
  • To support recorders through their engagement with the scheme, including through the provision of resources and training.


Further information

Papers and reports





UKCEH national capability

  • The NPMS is a partnership with the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, a valued part of the Biological Records Centre. The community data collected through the NPMS complement a long tradition of making inferences from larger scale distribution data, and as such offer many opportunities for investigating the congruences between ecological patterns across scales
  • The methodology behind the weighted random selection of 1 km squares in the NPMS has also been used to choose squares for the Pollinator Monitoring Scheme (PoMS)
  • The NPMS has produced full colour, freely available guides to UK habitats, which are widely used by both volunteers and professionals
  • The design process for the NPMS has been openly published, and should form a starting point for other organisations or countries wanting to follow similar programmes in the future.

UKCEH co-aligned research

  • Data from the NPMS, the Environmental Change Network, and the Countryside Survey have been jointly analysed, demonstrating the increased power and precision that can come from integrated data analyses
  • Data from the NPMS have been included as a part of the UK APIENS monitoring data submission to the UK National Emissions Ceilings Regulations
  • The NPMS methods are being made available to local partnerships from a new “Plant Portal” quadrat repository; this will form a platform both for researchers to archive quadrat data, and to use our methods for monitoring local sites or regions.


  • The data from the NPMS are freely available through the EIDC, and have already been used to help train Natural England Earth Observation land cover products, to investigate the richness of former colliery sites, and to inform the development of a potential new Natural England national environmental monitoring programme.

Project lead - Oliver Pescott