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Efficiency of hay spreading to increase the diversity of grassland enhancement and arable reversion sites - BD1441

Description
Main objective
Project BD1414 aims to identify the factors and management practices which most effectively conserve and enhance the biological diversity of existing grassland or arable reversion sites on chalk. This new project is a development of BD1414 and focuses on the introduction of desirable species by hay spreading techniques. The project will assess the effectiveness of various management techniques, designed to enhance the colonisation of existing grassland or arable reversion by species typical of two types of species-rich grassland, namely chalk grasslands and lowland hay meadows Management options investigated will include site pre-treatment, timing and methods employed to collect local seed from the donor site, and timing and method of application on the recipient site. The work will focus on the enhancement of botanical diversity, but will also assess the associated specialist phytophagous insect fauna, using leaf beetles and weevils (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae, Curculionoidea) as models.
Policy relevance
The enhancement of the diversity of agriculturally-improved grasslands and the creation of new areas of grassland on ex-arable land are key objectives of the Environmentally Sensitive Area and Countryside Stewardship Schemes in lowland landscapes. The use of seed of wild flower and grass species on such sites is now widespread, but has been criticised because of difficulties in identifying the provenance of commercially bought seed. In recognition of this, arable reversion sites adjacent to existing areas of species-rich grassland are usually managed by natural regeneration. Both schemes make provision for the use of seed taken from existing areas of species-rich grassland in the vicinity of an enhancement site, although take-up of this option is patchy. This project will demonstrate the efficacy of such management and lead to recommendations for ‘best practice’. The research will also have a strong relevance to the delivery of objectives in the Habitat Action Plans for both lowland calcareous grasslands and lowland meadows, namely, for research on the establishment and expansion of such habitats.
Intended use of results
The project will provide information on the efficacy of various management options associated with using seed collected from local sites. As such, it will provide recommendations based on sound scientific experimentation, which could lead to changes in guidelines and management prescriptions within the ESA and CS Schemes. Such changes would maximise the value of incentive payments designed to encourage the enhancement of the diversity of lowland grasslands.
Objective
The overall objectives of the project are to (i) assess the effectiveness of management techniques, involving hay spreading, as a means of enhancing the colonisation of existing grassland or arable reversion sites, and thereby (ii) extend the preliminary investigations commenced in BD1414.

The specific objectives are:

1. To select representative sites for rigorous experimental work and to characterise both the donor and recipient sites prior to installation of experimental treatments. The project will focus on two types of species-rich lowland grassland, neutral hay meadows and chalk grassland.

2. To install experimental treatments in order to investigate the effects of:

(a) Site pre-treatment, by disturbance.

(b) Timing and methods employed to collect local seed from the donor site.

(c) Timing and methods of application on the recipient site (existing grassland or arable reversion sites.

3. To measure changes in the plant and insect communities in response to the experimental treatments and compare them to those of the donor site, in particular:

(a) Changes in botanical composition of the sward.

(b) Changes in the species composition of two groups of specialist phytophagous insects (leaf beetles and weevils (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae, Curculionoidea)) as indicators of insect diversity.

4. To make recommendations for ‘best practice’ management for use of seed collected from local grassland sites for the enhancement of the diversity of existing grassland and arable reversion sites.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Efficiency of hay spreading to increase the diversity of grassland enhancement and arable reversion sites   (455k)
• Annual Report : Effect of grazing management on creeping thistle & other injurious weeds & integration of grazing   (81k)
• Final Report - Annex : Efficiency of hay spreading to increase the diversity of grassland enhancement and arable reversion sites   (621k)
• Final Report - Annex : Efficiency of hay spreading to increase the diversity of grassland enhancement and arable reversion sites   (466k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2000

To: 2005

Cost: £314,548
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Reading
Keywords
Agricultural Land              
Biodiversity              
Environmental Protection              
Grasslands              
Land              
Fields of Study
Environmental Stewardship