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Establishment and management of field margin strips to protect ESA habitat features - BD0404

Field boundaries are of particular importance to farm wildlife, particularly in the UK lowlands where they support perennial and annual plants, some weed species, and many birds, invertebrates and small mammals. However, the proximity of hedgerows and other semi-natural areas to crops makes them vulnerable to agricultural operations, in particular eutrophication by fertilisers and damage from herbicide drift. Since only a small proportion of field margin species threatens adjacent crops, increased biological diversity at field margins may satisfy environmental, amenity and agricultural objectives. The aim of this study will be to develop practical methods for protecting existing field margin communities and enhancing wildlife habitat at the edges of agricultural fields. The approach will be based on the creation of vegetation strips at the edges of arable fields. Field experiments will be performed in 3 ESAs to determine the following: optimal methods for establishing vegetation strips (natural regeneration vs. sowing seed mixtures, optimal seed rates if sowing is used, most appropriate seed mixture composition, autumn vs. spring establishment and methods of managing strips in the first and subsequent seasons); optimal widths of vegetation strips for preventing weed ingress, and preventing fertiliser and herbicide drift into adjacent semi-natural areas; patterns of successional change under different initial conditions, and stability and longevity of the plant communities created; and impact of introduced strips on selected weed and pest species, and selected desirable fauna and flora. Results will be presented in a menu form applicable to specific ESAs and the wider countryside.
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 1993

To: 1996

Cost: £229,941
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Rothamsted Research (BBSRC)
Fields of Study
Environmental Stewardship