Hedgerows are an important feature of the farmed landscape across much of England. They support a wide variety of wildlife, are a defining feature of many landscapes and have considerable historical importance. Management of hedges is an important component of many agreements under the Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) Scheme, while the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) contains prescriptions for the management, restoration and planting of hedgerows.
Ancient and/or species rich hedgerows are particularly valuable and are a Priority Habitat within the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. DEFRA is the lead partner for this habitat, with the responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation plan and reporting on progress.
The diversity of hedges and the range of options available within CSS and the ESAs mean that there is potential for management or restoration work to be carried out that is not appropriate, particularly when dealing with ancient and/or species-rich hedgerows. Hedges may also be planted in inappropriate locations or using inappropriate species or cultivars. New hedges may also alter the landscape and historic character of an area.
The number of agri-environment scheme agreements has grown substantially in recent years and they are now a major factor shaping the future of hedgerows in England. Further growth, particularly in the number of CSS agreements, is envisaged. A study to review the quality and effectiveness of this management is therefore an important component of DEFRA’s overall monitoring programme.
1. To examine, describe and where possible quantify the effects of hedgerow management, restoration and establishment carried out under CSS and ESA agreements on biodiversity, landscape and the historic environment.
2. To provide estimates of the contributions made by Countryside Stewardship Schemes and Environmentally Sensitive Areas to the targets contained in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan Habitat Action Plan for Ancient and Species-rich hedgerows.
3. To look critically at those cases where management has had a negative impact, identify the causes of the problems and suggest ways in which these problems could be tackled.
4. To present suggestions for improving future agreements involving hedgerows and their management.
5. To clarify the definitions used to define hedgerows, species-rich hedgerows and hedgerow trees and to assist in the definition of favourable condition.
The project will assess hedgerow restoration and maintenance on a sample of 100 agreements in both the ESA and Countryside Stewardship Schemes. For the latter, sample selection was stratified by Government Region. The overall evaluation of the hedgerow work will be derived from a combination of file appraisal, field visit and agreement holder interview to give a holistic evaluation of the hedgerow work on each agreement in the sample.
For each agreement, the field survey will address a sample of hedges using the standard methodology for biological hedge surveys developed for the Hedgerow UK BAP Steering Group. The method collects information on the woody species, the ground flora, hedge structure (including hedgerow trees), evidence of management and associated features and habitats.
Each agreement will be subject to a landscape assessment, describing the impact of CSS-funded hedgerow management against an appropriate descriptive backcloth describing the landscape character of the area in which the agreement is situated. Furthermore, an assessment will be made of the historic interest of each hedge. Where a hedge is found to have significant historic interest, notes will be made of any beneficial or harmful impacts on this interest. This assessment should be cross-referenced with the biological categorisation of hedges as ‘Ancient’.
Field survey results will be recorded in a standard format using a field survey form and stored on an electronic database in a structure that will permit integration into the Agri-environment Monitoring Archive. The format and the structure of the database are to be developed by the contractor in consultation with the nominated officer. A digital photograph should be taken of each hedge to show its overall structure and context.
An interim report will be produced In January 2002 detailing the findings of the first year's fieldwork, which will address a little over half the CSS sample. The interim report will highlight any methodological issues that need to be modified for the second year of the study.
A final report will be produced in March 2003, following completion of the ESA sample.