The value of a checklist when recording the species composition of freshwater macrophyte communities has been recognised for over 30 years, yet studies are still published that fail to refer to a specific checklist. This review demonstrates how the recording of British freshwater vascular plants has been enabled and enhanced through the application of checklists. Consideration is given to studies of plants in the context of trophy, pollution, classification, conservation, and spatial and temporal change in freshwater habitats. Twenty-four lists, with diverse origins, were compared using Jaccard similarity coefficients. Similarities tended to be low (mean Sj = 0.37) hence there are difficulties in comparing studies that have used different checklists, and a change of checklist should be avoided during long-term studies. It is suggested that long checklists yield comprehensive data but that shorter lists developed for a particular task will produce useful information, perhaps more quickly and with less need for advanced botanical knowledge. It is emphasised that the checklist used should be cited in all new published studies.
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