Effects of livestock on nesting success of lapwing Vanellus vanellus on coastal grazing marsh at Elmley Marshes, Kent, England

  • Published source details Hart J.D., Milsom T.P., Baxter A., Kelly P.F. & Parkin W.K. (2002) The impact of livestock on lapwing Vanellus vanellus breeding densities and performance on coastal grazing marsh. Bird Study, 49, 67-78


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Employ grazing in non-grassland habitats

Action Link
Bird Conservation

Employ areas of semi-natural habitat for rough grazing (includes salt marsh, lowland heath, bog, fen)

Action Link
Farmland Conservation

Exclude or remove livestock from historically grazed brackish/salt marshes

Action Link
Marsh and Swamp Conservation
  1. Employ grazing in non-grassland habitats

    A replicated, controlled trial in spring and summer 1997 in Kent, England (Hart et al. 2002), found that northern lapwings Vanellus vanellus had smaller clutches, lower nest survival and higher nest loss to predation on four coastal marshes with low-intensity (0.2-0.5 livestock units/ha) grazing, compared to four areas without grazing (higher proportion of four egg clutches on ungrazed marshes; 34% survival and 58% predation for 36 nests on grazed marshes vs. 64% survival and 36% predation for 50 nests on ungrazed sites). Three of the 15 unpredated nests on the grazed marshes were also trampled by livestock. Livestock presence was also found to have a weak impact on the density of lapwing nesters in 1995 and 1997, but not 1996.


  2. Employ areas of semi-natural habitat for rough grazing (includes salt marsh, lowland heath, bog, fen)

    A study of northern lapwing Vanellus vanellus nests on 12 grazed and six ungrazed marshes within an Environmentally Sensitive Area over one year in England (Hart et al. 2002) found that ungrazed marshes had greater clutch size and nest survival than those that were grazed. Clutch size was larger on ungrazed than grazed marshes and nest survival was significantly higher for four-egg clutches (57%) than three-egg clutches (21%). Overall, nest survival was 64% on ungrazed marshes compared with 34% on grazed marshes. On grazed marshes 58% of nests were lost to predation compared with 36% on ungrazed marshes, and 20% of unpredated nests were trampled by livestock. Incubating birds also left their eggs significantly more frequently on grazed compared to ungrazed marshes, because of disturbance. All marshes had been grazed the previous year. Sheep or cattle were introduced to 12 marshes at low stocking densities (i.e. 0.20-0.51 livestock units/ha). Lapwing nest data were collected between April and June 1997.


  3. Exclude or remove livestock from historically grazed brackish/salt marshes

    A replicated, controlled, before-and-after study in 1997 of eight areas of a brackish wet grassland on the coast of England, UK (Hart et al. 2002) found that plots left ungrazed contained taller vegetation than plots grazed by cattle. After approximately one month, the vegetation was taller in ungrazed plots (6.1–10.5 cm) than in grazed plots (4.2–5.0 cm). Before intervention, vegetation height did not significantly differ between plots destined for each treatment (ungrazed: 3.6 cm; grazed: 3.2 cm). Methods: The study used eight plots on a coastal, brackish, wet grassland that had been grazed by cattle in 1996. Four plots were left ungrazed in 1997, whilst four plots were lightly grazed by cattle (0.2–0.5 livestock units/ha) from mid-April. The overall height of the grassy vegetation was measured in 1997 before grazing began (early April) and approximately one month after (mid–late May). There were 20–40 survey points/plot.

    (Summarised by: Nigel Taylor)

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