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Individual study: The Environmentally Sensitive Areas scheme increases plant species-richness on upland hay meadows with degraded plant communities, in the Pennines, UK

Published source details

Critchley C.N.R., Fowbert J.A. & Wright B. (2007) Dynamics of species-rich upland hay meadows over 15 years and their relation with agricultural management practices. Applied Vegetation Science, 10, 307-314


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Maintain species-rich, semi-natural grassland Farmland Conservation

A before-and-after trial of 16 upland hay meadows in the Pennines, northern England (Critchley et al. 2007) found that 15 years of low intensity management under the Environmentally Sensitive Areas agri-environment scheme maintained the total number of plant species, but not the number of broadleaf (forb) species. The meadow plant communities were characterized by sweet vernal grass Anthoxanthum odoratum and wood cranesbill Geranium sylvaticum (MG3 under the UK National Vegetation Classification). The number of broadleaf species declined from 14 to 10 species/m2 on average between 1987 and 2002, while the average number of grass species increased from 8 to 12 species/ m2. The authors linked the loss of broadleaf species to inappropriate grazing intensity. Plant species were recorded in three 1 m2 permanent quadrats at each site, in 1987 (the year the scheme was introduced) and 2002. On 62 sites in the same study with areas of other types of species-rich grassland (not MG3), the average number of plant species increased slightly from 21.6 to 22.8 species/m2. Again, the increase was predominantly in the number of grass species, not broadleaf herbaceous species.

 

Reduce management intensity on permanent grasslands (several interventions at once) Farmland Conservation

A replicated before-and-after trial of 116 upland hay meadows in the Pennines, northern England (Critchley et al. 2007a) found that reduced management intensity prescribed under the Environmentally Sensitive Areas agri-environment scheme led to increased plant species richness in areas where the plant community was degraded. At sites with areas of degraded or modified plant communities, the average number of plant species increased slightly (from 21.6 to 22.8 species/m2 for areas with species-rich but not MG3 (sweet vernal grass Anthoxanthum odoratum-wood crane’s bill Geranium sylvaticum grassland) plant communities (data from 62 sites), and from 17.6 to 19.1 species/m2 for degraded areas (data from 90 sites)). This increase was predominantly in the number of grass species, not broadleaf herbaceous species. Plant species were recorded in three 1 m2 permanent quadrats at each site, in 1987 (the year the scheme was introduced) and 2002.