Study

Habitat establishment on arable land: assessment of an agri-environment scheme in England, UK

  • Published source details Critchley C., Allen D., Fowbert J., Mole A. & Gundrey A. (2004) Habitat establishment on arable land: assessment of an agri-environment scheme in England, UK. Biological Conservation, 119, 429-442.

Actions

This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Create rotational grass or clover leys

Action Link
Farmland Conservation

Leave cultivated, uncropped margins or plots (includes 'lapwing plots')

Action Link
Farmland Conservation

Leave overwinter stubbles

Action Link
Farmland Conservation

Undersow spring cereals, with clover for example

Action Link
Farmland Conservation

Plant wild bird seed or cover mixture

Action Link
Farmland Conservation

Plant grass buffer strips/margins around arable or pasture fields

Action Link
Farmland Conservation

Create uncultivated margins around intensive arable or pasture fields

Action Link
Farmland Conservation

Leave headlands in fields unsprayed (conservation headlands)

Action Link
Farmland Conservation
  1. Create rotational grass or clover leys

    A replicated study in the summers of 1999-2000 on arable farms in the UK (Critchley et al. 2004) found that grass leys had fewer plant species than nine other conservation measures. Average numbers of plant species in the different conservation habitats were grass leys 3.1, wildlife seed mixtures 6.7, uncropped cultivated margins 6.3, undersown cereals 5.9, naturally regenerated grass margins 5.5, no-fertilizer conservation headlands 4.8, spring fallows 4.5, sown grass margins 4.4, overwinter stubbles 4.2, conservation headlands 3.5. Grass leys had the lowest number of plant species, lower than in undersown cereals, due to the later successional stage of the sown grass and clover Trifolium spp. species that dominated the leys. Plants were surveyed on a total of 294 conservation measure sites (each a single field, block of field or field margin strip), on 37 farms in East Anglia (dominated by arable farming) and 38 farms in the West Midlands (dominated by more mixed farming). The ten habitats were created according to agri-environment scheme guidelines. Vegetation was surveyed once in each site in June-August in 1999 or 2000 in thirty 0.25 m2 quadrats randomly placed in 50-100 m randomly located sampling zones in each habitat site. All vascular plant species rooted in each quadrat, bare ground or litter and plant cover were recorded.

  2. Leave cultivated, uncropped margins or plots (includes 'lapwing plots')

    A replicated study in the summers of 1999-2000 comparing ten different conservation measures on arable farms in the UK (Critchley et al. 2004) found that uncropped, cultivated margins appeared to be one of the three best options for conservation of annual herbaceous plant communities. Wildlife seed mix (largely sown for birds) and no fertilizer conservation headlands were the other two options. Uncropped, cultivated margins were dominated by annual plant species. Of the ten measures, they had the highest numbers of annual and herbaceous plant species, unsown crops (crop volunteers), bare ground and litter, and the lowest cover and species richness of grasses. Cultivated spring fallows had fewer plant species than cultivated margins, but relatively high total plant cover, and over 50% cover of monocotyledonous plants (mainly grasses). The average numbers of plant species in the different conservation habitats were uncropped cultivated margins 6.3, wildlife seed mixtures 6.7, undersown cereals 5.9, naturally regenerated grass margins 5.5, no-fertilizer conservation headlands 4.8, spring fallows 4.5, sown grass margins 4.4, overwinter stubbles 4.2, conservation headlands 3.5, grass leys 3.1. Plants were surveyed on a total of 294 conservation measure sites (each a single field, block of field or field margin strip), on 37 farms in East Anglia (dominated by arable farming) and 38 farms in the West Midlands (dominated by more mixed farming). The ten habitats were created according to agri-environment scheme guidelines. Vegetation was surveyed once in each site in June-August in 1999 or 2000, in thirty 0.25 m2 quadrats randomly placed in 50-100 m randomly located sampling zones in each habitat site. All vascular plant species rooted in each quadrat, bare ground or litter and plant cover were recorded.

     

  3. Leave overwinter stubbles

    A replicated study in the summers of 1999-2000 comparing ten different conservation measures on arable farms in the UK (Critchley et al. 2004) found that overwinter stubbles had high total plant cover, but not as many plant species as some other measures. Overwinter stubbles and spring fallows had relatively high total plant cover, and over 50% cover of grasses. Litter cover was higher while richness of annual plant species was lower in overwinter stubbles compared with spring fallows, probably due to cultivation in spring fallows. The average numbers of plant species in the different conservation habitats were: overwinter stubbles 4.2, wildlife seed mixtures 6.7, uncropped cultivated margins 6.3, undersown cereals 5.9, uncultivated margins 5.5, no-fertilizer conservation headlands 4.8, spring fallows 4.5, sown grass margins 4.4, conservation headlands 3.5, grass leys 3.1. Uncropped cultivated margins, wildlife seed mixtures and no-fertilizer conservation headlands appeared to be the best options for conservation of annual broadleaf plant communities. Plants were surveyed on 37 farms in East Anglia (dominated by arable farming) and 38 farms in the West Midlands (dominated by more mixed farming). The study included 294 habitat sites (defined as a single field, block of field or field margin strip). Vegetation was surveyed once in each site in June-August in 1999 or 2000, in thirty 0.25 m2 quadrats randomly placed in 50-100 m randomly located sampling zones in each habitat site. All vascular plant species rooted in each quadrat, bare ground or litter and plant cover were recorded.

     

  4. Undersow spring cereals, with clover for example

    A replicated study in the summers of 1999-2000 comparing ten different conservation measures on arable farms in the UK (Critchley et al. 2004) found that undersown spring cereals had more plant species than seven other conservation measures, but were not considered one of the best options for conservation of annual herbaceous plant communities. Average numbers of plant species in the different conservation habitats were undersown cereals 5.9, wildlife seed mixtures 6.7, uncropped cultivated margins 6.3, naturally regenerated grass margins 5.5, no-fertilizer conservation headlands 4.8, spring fallows 4.5, sown grass margins 4.4, overwinter stubbles 4.2, conservation headlands 3.5, grass leys 3.1. Plants were surveyed on a total of 294 conservation measure sites (each a single field, block of field or field margin strip), on 37 farms in East Anglia (dominated by arable farming) and 38 farms in the West Midlands (dominated by more mixed farming). The ten habitats were created according to agri-environment scheme guidelines. Vegetation was surveyed once in each site in June-August in 1999 or 2000, in thirty 0.25 m2 quadrats randomly placed in 50-100 m randomly located sampling zones in each habitat site. All vascular plant species rooted in each quadrat, bare ground or litter and plant cover were recorded.

  5. Plant wild bird seed or cover mixture

    A replicated study in the summers of 1999-2000 comparing ten different conservation measures on arable farms in the UK (Critchley et al. 2004) found that wildlife seed mixtures (site-specific mixture, but largely planted for birds) appeared to be one of the three best options for the conservation of annual herbaceous plant communities. Uncropped cultivated margins and no-fertilizer conservation headlands were the other two options. The average numbers of plant species in different conservation habitats were wildlife seed mixtures 6.7, uncropped cultivated margins 6.3, undersown cereals 5.9, naturally regenerated grass margins 5.5, no-fertilizer conservation headlands 4.8, spring fallows 4.5, sown grass margins 4.4, overwinter stubbles 4.2, conservation headlands 3.5, grass leys 3.1. Plant species richness was highest in wildlife seed mixtures due to the range of sown species and a high number of annual arable species. Plants were surveyed on a total of 294 conservation measure sites (each a single field, block of field or field margin strip), on 37 farms in East Anglia (dominated by arable farming) and 38 farms in the West Midlands (dominated by more mixed farming). The ten habitats were created according to agri-environment scheme guidelines. Vegetation was surveyed once in each site in June-August in 1999 or 2000 in thirty 0.25 m2 quadrats randomly placed in 50-100 m randomly located sampling zones in each habitat site. All vascular plant species rooted in each quadrat, bare ground, or litter and plant cover were recorded.

  6. Plant grass buffer strips/margins around arable or pasture fields

    A replicated study in the summers of 1999-2000 in the UK (Critchley et al. 2004) found that sown grass margins had fewer plant species than six other conservation measures, including naturally regenerated margins. Sown grass margins were not considered one of the best options for conservation of annual herbaceous plant communities. Average numbers of plant species in the different conservation habitats were sown grass margins 4.4, wildlife seed mixtures 6.7, uncropped cultivated margins 6.3, undersown cereals 5.9, naturally regenerated margins 5.5, no-fertilizer conservation headlands 4.8, spring fallows 4.5, overwinter stubbles 4.2, conservation headlands 3.5, grass leys 3.1. Plants were surveyed on a total of 294 conservation measure sites (each a single field, block of field or field margin strip), on 37 farms in East Anglia (dominated by arable farming) and 38 farms in the West Midlands (dominated by more mixed farming). The ten habitats were created according to agri-environment scheme guidelines. Vegetation was surveyed once in each site in June-August in 1999 or 2000. The vegetation was examined in thirty 0.25 m2 quadrats randomly placed in 50-100 m randomly located sampling zones in each habitat site. All vascular plant species rooted in each quadrat as well as bare ground or litter were recorded.

  7. Create uncultivated margins around intensive arable or pasture fields

    A replicated study in the summers of 1999-2000 on arable farms in the UK (Critchley et al. 2004) found that naturally regenerated grassy margins had more plant species than sown grassy margins, but were not considered one of the best options for the conservation of annual herbaceous plant communities. The naturally regenerated margins were dominated by three grasses (different species from the sown margins) and thistles. Average numbers of plant species in the different conservation habitats were wildlife seed mixtures 6.7, uncropped cultivated margins 6.3, undersown cereals 5.9, naturally regenerated grass margins 5.5, no-fertilizer conservation headlands 4.8, spring fallows 4.5, sown grass margins 4.4, overwinter stubbles 4.2, conservation headlands 3.5, grass leys 3.1. Plants were surveyed on a total of 294 conservation measure sites (each a single field, block of field or field margin strip), on 37 farms in East Anglia (dominated by arable farming) and 38 farms in the West Midlands (dominated by more mixed farming). The ten habitats were created according to agri-environment scheme guidelines. Vegetation was surveyed once in each site in June-August in 1999 or 2000. The vegetation was examined in thirty 0.25 m2 quadrats randomly placed in 50-100 m randomly located sampling zones in each habitat site. Top cover and plant cover was estimated with 1-30 pin hits.

  8. Leave headlands in fields unsprayed (conservation headlands)

    A replicated study in the summers of 1999-2000 comparing ten different conservation measures on arable farms in the UK (Critchley et al. 2004) found that conservation headlands without fertilizer appeared to be one of the three best options for the conservation of annual herbaceous plant communities. Wildlife seed mix (sown for birds and bees) and uncropped, cultivated margins were the other two options. Conservation headlands with fertilizer use had fewer plant species. The average numbers of plant species in the different conservation habitats were no-fertilizer conservation headlands 4.8, conservation headlands 3.5, wildlife seed mixtures 6.7, uncropped cultivated margins 6.3, undersown cereals 5.9, naturally regenerated grass margins 5.5, spring fallows 4.5, sown grass margins 4.4, overwinter stubbles 4.2, grass leys 3.1. Plants were surveyed on a total of 294 conservation measure sites (each a single field, block of field or field margin strip), on 37 farms in East Anglia (dominated by arable farming) and 38 farms in the West Midlands (dominated by more mixed farming). The ten habitats were created according to agri-environment scheme guidelines. Vegetation was surveyed once in each site in June-August in 1999 or 2000, in thirty 0.25 m2 quadrats randomly placed in 50-100m randomly located sampling zones in each habitat site. All vascular plant species rooted in each quadrat, bare ground or litter and plant cover were recorded.

     

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