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Individual 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


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

Create uncultivated margins around intensive arable or pasture fields Farmland Conservation

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).

Plant nectar flower mixture/wildflower strips Farmland Conservation

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.