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Chalk grassland: enhancement of plant & invertebrate diversity through Environmental Land Management Schemes (old BD0333 - BD1414(1)

Description
This study will aim to identify the factors which most effectively conserve and enhance the biological diversity of existing chalk grasslands and which will help create new areas of such species-rich grassland on ex-arable land. The importance of site factors and management practices on plant and invertebrate diversity in Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) or Countryside Stewardship (CS) schemes will be identified. This will provide information on the extent to which Environmental Land Management Schemes can be used to deliver the aims of the Biodiversity Action Plan for calcareous grasslands.

The study is composed of 5 specific objectives outlined as follows, together with ways in which they might be achieved: 1. Influence of site factors and management practices on the invertebrate diversity of existing chalk grassland sites of known botanical composition. Botanical composition of ESA sites will be analysed and invertebrate communities will be monitored using Vortis vacuum netting, pitfall trapping and hand-sorting of soil and litter samples. Results will be analysed using multivariate and multiple regression techniques; 2. Effectiveness of supplementary measures aimed at enhancing the colonization of existing chalk grassland sites by plants and invertebrates. Measures include control of undesirable species by cutting and introduction of desirable species by spreading hay taken from local species-rich grasslands; 3. Development of plant and invertebrate communities of abandoned chalk grassland sites after the clearance of scrub. Relationships between scrub density and associated invertebrate fauna prior to scrub clearance, and between age of scrub, its cover and seed bank composition in soil beneath the scrub will be analysed. Changes in plant and invertebrate communities of these sites after clearance of the scrub will be monitored and effects of scrub cover and seed bank on development of the plant community will be investigated; 4. Identification of factors important in promoting the successful development of plant and invertebrate diversity of arable reversion sites. Effects of site factors and management practices on botanical composition and invertebrate diversity of arable reversion sites will be determined. Influence of proximity of the site to existing chalk grassland on plant and insect colonization will be investigated, and sites with natural regeneration will be compared with those sown with a grass seed mix; and 5. Effectiveness of supplementary measures in enhancing the colonization of arable reversion sites by plants and invertebrates typical of chalk grassland. Measures include reducing soil nutrient levels and introduction of desirable species by sowing seed or spreading hay taken from local species-rich grasslands. Results from the project will provide: an assessment of the effectiveness of current management guidelines for chalk grassland in ESA and CS schemes in conserving and enhancing plant and invertebrate diversity; information allowing for modification and development of management guidelines; and site indicators which could be used to target funding for the CS scheme on the most suitable sites.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : Chalk grassland: enhancement of plant & invertebrate diversity through Environmental Land Management Schemes   (1120k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 1997

To: 2003

Cost: £513,818
Contractor / Funded Organisations
CABI Bioscience
Keywords
Agricultural Land              
Biodiversity              
Environmental Protection              
Grasslands              
Land              
Fields of Study
Environmental Stewardship