Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Project List

Management of ditches in arable fenland for wildlife and drainage - BD0405

Man-made drainage ditches, an integral feature of lowland farmland, play an important role in the regulation of water levels and often harbour aquatic plant and animal species of outstanding importance. However, plant and animal communities in ditches can be difficult to control and may present a conflict of interest between conservation objectives and other requirements such as drainage. The peat Fens in Cambridgeshire were formerly a major wetland but the region has been converted to productive arable farmland through establishment of drainage systems. As such, field margins have become major repositories of biodiversity on arable land in the Fens, although management of drainage channels has resulted in a reduction in the biological diversity of many channels in this region. In this study, costed management prescriptions will be developed which maintain or enhance the wildlife value of ditches in arable fenland without affecting the drainage function. In particular, the consequences for wildlife and drainage of adjusting the timing and frequency (6, 12 and 14 months) with which ditches are mown and dredged will be examined. The study will aim to address 2 problems: the lack of quantification of aquatic plant and animal communities, and the processes which have shaped them, in fenland arable ditches; and the lack of empirical data on the extent to which current maintenance regimes can be adjusted to benefit wildlife without affecting the primary drainage function.
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 1994

To: 1998

Cost: £228,707
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Central Science Laboratory, ADAS UK Ltd.
Agricultural Land              
Environmental Protection              
Fields of Study
Environmental Stewardship