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Management of chalk grassland and heathlands - BD0303

Grasslands and heathlands within ESAs and elsewhere require some form of management if their particular structure and floristic composition is to be maintained. Sheep, cattle and rabbits have largely been responsible for creating the biological richness of chalk grasslands and are likely to remain the principal means of managing calcareous grasslands in the future, although there is some evidence that mowing may be a reasonable substitute for grazing on some grassland types. On heathlands, burning and turf-cutting, accompanied by various grazing regimes, have been used as management tools, the balance between grass dominated heath and ericaceous heath being determined by the frequency and intensity of grazing or burning.

Experiments to investigate the effects of different grazing regimes, cutting treatments or burning are expensive to set-up and maintain and it may be several years before meaningful results can be obtained. An alternative, and less costly approach, is to investigate the historical management of sites which today have a vegetation structure and composition which we perceive as desirable and one which we would like to maintain or create on existing grasslands and heathlands within ESAs. This proposal outlines a programme of work which will bring together existing information on calcareous grassland and heathland management using detailed records available of the management carried out on sites over the previous decade or more. The present day vegetation will be recorded and analyzed and an attempt made to reconstruct the vegetation of the past from photographs and documentary sources, with the aim of relating vegetation change(if any) to management regimes.
To locate a series of lowland chalk grassland and heathland sites with a documented history of management. To record and analyze the present day vegetation and floristic composition of such sites. To investigate the effects of different grazing regimes (including types of livestock),cutting treatments and burning on chalk grassland and heathlands. To provide guidelines on the possible outcome of different management practices on the range of grassland and heathland vegetation found within ESAs.
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 1993

To: 1995

Cost: £61,000
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Natural Environment Research Council
Fields of Study
Environmental Stewardship