Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Project List

Arable reversion to permanent grassland: determining best management options to benefit declining bird populations - BD0305

Previous research has indicated that farmers opting for arable reversion within the South Downs ESA choose reversion to permanent grassland rather than reversion to chalk downland. This study will investigate effects of such changes on floral and faunal diversity of the area, with emphasis on declining bird species of grassland ecosystems (e.g. lapwing, turtle dove, skylark, meadow pipit and mistle thrush). It will aim to maximise conservation value of arable reversion to permanent grassland by enhancing the attractiveness of newly created grasslands to such birds and thus increase the diversity of bird species in these areas. Changes in populations of grassland birds that have occurred as a result of arable reversion will be correlated with time since conversion using 3 experimental methods: comparison of adjacent sites that have and have not been converted to grassland; collection of data on sites scheduled for reversion before and after conversion; and examination of sites that have been converted to grassland at different times. The data produced will generate several hypotheses regarding responses of grassland bird species to arable reversion; experimental areas will then be established to test these hypotheses in relation to 2 major grassland management options (grass seed mixture sown and grassland stocking regime (i.e. by sheep or cattle)). Abundance of plants and invertebrates under each option will be assessed in order to establish relationships between treatment effects and corresponding changes in the birds’ food supply. Results will allow management options to be ranked in terms of their bird conservation value and will allow recommendations to be produced for enhancing attractiveness of reverted arable areas to birds indigenous to grassland ecosystems.
Assess the effect of arable reversion to permanent grassland on floral and faunal diversity, in particular on declining bird species characteristic of grassland ecosystems. Establish experiments to test the relationships hypothesised between the above bird species and different methods of arable reversion to permanent grassland. Investigate the relationships between the experimental results and corresponding changes on the birds' food supply. Produce recommendations for reverting arable land on chalk to permanent grassland , so as to enhance bird diversity and maximise conservation benefits to grassland bird populations.
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 1994

To: 1997

Cost: £97,155
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Game & Wildlife Conservancy Trust
Fields of Study
Environmental Stewardship