Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Birds and lowland grassland management practices in the UK: an overview

Published source details

Wakeham-Dawson A. & Smith K.W. (2000) Birds and lowland grassland management practices in the UK: an overview. Ecology and Conservation of Lowland Farmland Birds. Spring Conference of the British Ornithologists' Union, 27-28 March 1999, Southampton, UK, 77-88.


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

Raise water levels in ditches or grassland Farmland Conservation

A 2000 literature review of grassland management practices in the UK (Wakeham-Dawson & Smith 2000) reported that there were numerous studies detailing the success of providing high ditch-water or water table levels in restoring breeding and wintering bird numbers (e.g. Andrews & Rebane 1994, Evans et al. 1995).

Additional references:

Andrews J. & Rebane M. (1994) Farming & Wildlife: A Practical Management Handbook. Sandy: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Evans C., Street S., Benstead P., Cadbury J., Hirons G., Self M. & Wallace H. (1995) Water and sward management for conservation: a case study of the RSPBs West Sedgemoor Reserve. RSPB Conservation Review, 9, 60-72.

Convert or revert arable land to permanent grassland Farmland Conservation

A 2000 literature review (Wakeham-Dawson & Smith 2000) looked at grassland management practices in the UK. It reported three studies that found reversion of arable land to permanent grassland resulted in decreased abundance of broad-leaved weed seeds (Wakeham-Dawson & Aebischer 1998) (in downland Environmentally Sensitive Areas), and lower densities of grey partridge Perdix perdix and corn bunting Miliaria calandra (Potts 1997, Wakeham-Dawson 1997). A further two studies found breeding corn bunting and Eurasian skylark Alauda arvensis abandoned arable reversion grassland fields that were mown and grazed during the nesting season (Wakeham-Dawson 1997, Wakeham-Dawson et al. 1998).

Additional references:

Potts G.R. (1997) Cereal farming, pesticides and Grey Partridges. Pages 150-177 in: D.J. Pain & M.W. Pienkowski (eds.) Farming and Birds in Europe. The Common Agricultural Policy and its Implications for Bird Conservation, Academic Press, London.

Wakeham-Dawson A. (1997) Corn Buntings Miliaria calandra in the South Downs and South Wessex Downs Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs), 1994-1995. Pages 186-190 in: P.F. Donald & N.J. Aebischer (eds.) The Ecology and Conservation of Corn Buntings Miliaria calandra, UK Nature Conservation No. 13, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough.

Delay mowing or first grazing date on pasture or grassland Farmland Conservation

A 2000 literature review of grassland management practices in the UK (Wakeham-Dawson & Smith 2000) discussed a collaborative study in the Scottish Islands in which management for corncrake Crex crex, including delayed mowing and grazing resulted in increased corncrake numbers (Scottish Biodiversity Group 1998). Management included ‘Corncrake Friendly Mowing’, i.e. delayed mowing and grazing until August, mowing in strips or mowing from the middle of fields outwards. These practices were encouraged using financial incentives. Although success varied between islands, overall corncrake numbers increased since the widespread implementation of the programme.

Additional reference:

Scottish Biodiversity Group (1998) Corncrake newsletter and initiative report 1998. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Inverness.

Reduce grazing intensity on grassland (including seasonal removal of livestock) Farmland Conservation

A 2000 literature review of grassland management practices in the UK (Wakeham-Dawson & Smith 2000) found one study that reported that grass maintained at a height of 15-25 cm supported twice the number of invertebrates compared with grass grazed by sheep to less than 10 cm. In particular, reduced grazing resulted in significantly more web-spinning spiders (Araneae) and the number of grass seed heads in July was 15 times that in heavily grazed fields (Wakeham-Dawson et al. 1998). Two studies reported that taller or ungrazed grassland supported greater densities of rodents and predatory birds (Dodds et al. 1995, Shaw 1995). In contrast, increased vegetation height following a reduction in grazing by livestock and or rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus has been found to result in a decrease in the number of breeding Eurasian thick-knee (stone curlew) Burhinus oedicnemus, woodlark Lullula arborea and northern wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe; however the number of Eurasian curlew Numenius arquata increased (Dolman & Sutherland 1992, Green & Taylor 1995, Bealey et al. 1999).

Additional references:

Dolman P.M. & Sutherland W.J. (1992) The ecological changes of Breckland grass heaths and the consequences of management. Journal of Applied Ecology, 29, 402-413.

Dodds G.W., Appleby M.J. & Evans A.D. (1995) A Management Guide to Birds of Lowland Farmland. Sandy: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Green R. E & Taylor C.R. (1995) Changes in stone-curlew Burhinus oedicnemus distribution and abundance and vegetation height on chalk grassland at Porton Down, Wiltshire. Bird Study 42: 177-181.

Shaw G. (1995) Habitat selection by short-eared Owls Asio flammeus in young coniferous forests. Bird Study, 42, 158-164.

Bealey C E., Green R.E., Robson R., Taylor C.R. & Winspear R. (1999) Factors affecting the numbers and breeding success of stone-curlews Burhinus oedicnemus at Porton Down, Wiltshire. Bird Study, 46, 145-156.

Reduce chemical inputs in grassland management Farmland Conservation

A 2000 literature review of grassland management practices in the UK (Wakeham-Dawson & Smith 2000) found one study that reported that densities of invertebrates such as species of mites and ticks (Acari), springtails (Collembola), flies (Diptera), beetles (Coleoptera) and millipedes and centipedes (Myriapoda) were higher in unfertilized permanent pasture than pasture receiving over 140 kg nitrogen/ha/year (Curry 1994). One study found that although soil macro-invertebrate densities did not differ in fields with and without farmyard manure applications, bird usage was higher in those that had received moderate applications (Tucker 1992).

Additional references:

Tucker G.M. (1992). The effects of agricultural practice on field use by invertebrate-feeding birds in winter. Journal of Applied Ecology, 29, 779-790.

Curry J.P. (1994) Grassland Invertebrates. London, Chapman & Hall.

 

Use organic rather than mineral fertilizers Farmland Conservation

A 2000 literature review of grassland management practices in the UK (Wakeham-Dawson & Smith 2000) found one study that reported that although the abundance of common earthworms Lumbricus terrestris tended to increase with the addition of farmyard manure, heavy applications (more than 500 m³/ha/year) of slurry can be toxic (Curry 1994). Another study found that although densities of larger soil invertebrates did not differ in fields with and without farmyard manure applications, bird usage was higher in those that had received moderate applications (Tucker 1992).

Additional references:

Tucker G.M. (1992) The effects of agricultural practice on field use by invertebrate-feeding birds in winter. Journal of Applied Ecology, 29, 779- 790.

Curry J.P. (1994) Grassland Invertebrates. London, Chapman & Hall.