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Effectiveness of use of Higher Level Stewardship Sheme (HLS) options for management of lowland fen and bog - LM0442

Management of wetland semi-natural habitats is a priority under the England Biodiversity Strategy (Biodiversity 2020), with several habitats and communities identified as Priority Habitats for conservation action. These include Lowland and Upland Fen, Reedbed, Lowland Raised Bog and, at the interface of wetland and grassland, Purple Moor Grass & Rush Pasture. Some of these habitats are also afforded protection under Annex 1 of the Habitats Regulations. The Lawton Report and the subsequent Natural Environment White Paper (NEWP) identified the need to deliver biodiversity gain through support for healthy, well-functioning ecosystems and coherent ecological networks. The principles for delivering better ecological networks can be summed up as involving the delivery of more, bigger, better and joined up patches of high quality habitat.

Agri-environment schemes, and in particular HLS, are the major vehicle for delivering management to conserve and restore high quality wetlands, thus contributing to Biodiversity 2020 and the development of the stronger ecological networks aspired to by NEWP.

For some HLS options, including those addressing grassland and moorland, the impact of agri-environment management has been tracked over a long period using time-series data from sites monitored in the late 1980’s and 1990’s as part of the ESA and Countryside Stewardship monitoring frameworks. However, for fens, few sites within these existing monitoring programmes offer comparable data or opportunities for analysis. With a view to monitoring longer-term impacts in the future, this project is intended to address this gap.
The aim of the project is to provide an assessment of a sample of sites being managed under HLS management options HQ6 (maintenance) and HQ7 (restoration). At each site there will be a field assessment of:

•basic ecohydrological character
•the vegetation communities present and their current condition;
•site factors that might influence the success of management (including delivery of associated capital works); and
•collection of structured site management data.

The sample generated will be available for longer-term evaluation of the impact of fen management within agri-environment schemes, and will also contribute data to support or that is complementary to wider Natural England surveillance and monitoring activities, including the Long Term Monitoring Network (LTMN) and Habitat Surveillance Project.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : Establishing a monitoring sample of HLS lowland fen sites 2014 Final Report 03 June16   (3903k)
• TPS - Two Page Summary : LM0442 Management of lowland fen and bog 2 page summary   (265k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2014

To: 2015

Cost: £63,614
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Belinda Wheeler