Study

Short-term successional change does not predict long-term conservation value of managed arable field margins

  • Published source details Smith H., Feber R.E., Morecroft M.D., Taylor M.E. & Macdonald D.W. (2010) Short-term successional change does not predict long-term conservation value of managed arable field margins. Biological Conservation, 143, 813-822.

Actions

This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Sow native grass and forbs

Action Link
Grassland Conservation

Create uncultivated margins around intensive arable or pasture fields

Action Link
Farmland Conservation

Plant nectar flower mixture/wildflower strips

Action Link
Farmland Conservation
  1. Sow native grass and forbs

    A replicated, randomized, paired, controlled trial in 1988–2000 in arable field margins in Oxfordshire, UK (Smith et al. 2010) found that plots sown with grass and forb seeds had more perennial but not annual plant species than unsown plots, but the number of species in all plots declined with time. Five months after sowing, there were more species where seeds were sown (24 species: 8 annual and 16 perennial) than in unsown plots (15 species: 10 annual and 5 perennial). After 13 years, the number of species was not significantly different between sown plots (9 perennial species and 0.5 annual species) and unsown plots (7 perennial species and 0.5 annual species). Forty-eight 50 x 1.5 m plots were established in field margins, with eight plots in each of six fields. Twenty-four plots (four random plots/field) were tilled and sown with a mix of six grass and 17 forb species at a rate of 30 kg/ha in March 1988. The other twenty-four plots were left unseeded. Most plots were cut annually. Plant species were recorded three times/year from 1988 to 1990, and once in July 2000 in three 0.5 x 1 m quadrats/plot.

    (Summarised by: Philip Martin)

  2. Create uncultivated margins around intensive arable or pasture fields

    A randomized, replicated trial from 1987 to 2000 in Oxfordshire, UK (Smith et al. 2010) found that the number of plant species on naturally regenerated 2 m-wide margins declined by about half over 13 years. There were 13-15 plant species/quadrat in 1988 and 7-9 plant species/quadrat in 2000. The most rapid decline was in the first two years, when many annual species were lost. Herbicide-sprayed plots had fewer perennial plant species than other management treatments from 1989 onwards (<6 perennial species/quadrat in 2000, compared to 6-8 for other treatments). After 13 years, naturally regenerated plots tended to have fewer species than plots sown with a wildflower seed mix (9-12 species/plot in 2000), but this difference was not statistically significant. There was no effect of different mowing regimes on the numbers of plant species, although in the early years mown plots had more plant species than uncut plots. Plant species were monitored three times a year from 1988 to 1990, and once in July 2000 in three 0.5 x 1 m quadrats/plot. This study was part of the same experimental set-up as Feber et al. 1994, Feber et al. 1996, Baines et al. 1998, Bell et al. 1999, Haughton et al. 1999, Bell et al. 2002).

  3. Plant nectar flower mixture/wildflower strips

    A randomized, replicated trial from 1987 to 2000 in Oxfordshire, UK (Smith et al. 2010) found that the number of plant species on 2 m-wide margins sown with a wildflower seed mix in 1988 declined by about half over 13 years. There were 23-24 plant species/quadrat in 1988 and 9-12 plant species/quadrat in 2000. The most rapid decline was in the first two years, when many annual species were lost. Sown plots retained more perennial plant species than naturally regenerated plots throughout the 13 years (around 10 vs 8 perennial species/quadrat respectively, in 2000). After 13 years, sown plots tended to have more species than naturally regenerated plots (9-12 vs 7-9 species/plot respectively in 2000), but this difference was not statistically significant. There was no effect of different mowing regimes on the numbers of plant species, although in the early years mown plots had more plant species than uncut plots. Sown plots that were cut twice retained a greater proportion of sown species (50-60%) than plots cut once or uncut (<40%). Sowing reduced the colonization of margins by unsown perennial species at first, but by 2000 many perennial species, including couch grass Elymus repens, were similarly abundant in sown and unsown plots. Plant species were monitored three times a year from 1988 to 1990, and once in July 2000 in three 0.5 x 1 m quadrats/plot. This was part of the same study set-up as Feber et al. 1994, Feber et al. 1996, Baines et al. 1998, Bell et al. 1999, Haughton et al. 1999, Smith et al. 1999, Bell et al. 2002.

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