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Monitoring rush encroachment in AES - LM0469

Upland Hay Meadows (UHM) are a rare and diminishing resource in Great Britain. Whilst rushes are a typical component of damper hay meadows, ecologists and farmers have expressed concern about the gradual ingress of the sharp-flowered and soft rushes (Juncus acutiflorus and J.effusus) and to a lesser extent compact rush (J. conglomeratus) over the hill grasslands, pastures and meadows of upland areas. Similar concerns have been raised on some semi-natural neutral grasslands in the lowlands.

Within Land Management schemes rushes are recognised as a component of upland and lowland wet pastures, and Higher Level Stewardship (HLS), and now Countryside Stewardship (CS) indicators of success include ranges of rush cover for different vegetation types and target bird species. Rush cutting to achieve and maintain these targets is expected as part of the management under such schemes.

There is concern that increases in rush cover may provide a disincentive to entry into agri-environment schemes in future, due to more stringent restrictions on herbicide control permitted under these schemes.

This project will explore these issues in greater detail.

(Penny Anderson - let)
The objectives of the contract are:

• To more accurately quantify the extent and recent spread of rushes within Upland Hay Meadows, with a particular focus on the North Pennines, and to assess the extent to which current farming practice is contributing to the spread of rushes within hay meadows, including the contribution of agri-environment measures (actual requirements and restrictions perceived by farmers).
• To identify soil and hydrological conditions and management factors that increase the risk of rush infestations, primarily soft and sharp-flowered rush and, to a lesser extent, compact rush.
• To provide an economic assessment of the impact of rushes on forage production and quality.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : Towards an understanding of the perceived increase in Juncus (Rush) species in species-rich upland hay meadows   (5103k)
• TPS - Two Page Summary : Two page summary of monitoring rush encroachment in AES project   (295k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2017

To: 2018

Cost: £51,000
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Penny Anderson Associates Ltd
Environmental Stewardship              
Natural Environment