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Water regime requirements and response to hydrological change of grassland plant communities (old BD0225) - BD1310

The conservation of wet grassland habitats necessitates a quantitative understanding of their water regime requirements. This study, which will build on a previous project (BD0209) measuring tolerances of individual plant species to water regimes by means of hydrological modelling, will analyse water regime requirements of plant communities rather than species, and will investigate hydrologically-altered sites to evaluate rate of plant community response.

The study will be composed of 6 specific objectives which are outlined as follows, together with ways in which they might be achieved: 1. Interpretation of existing data relating to water regime requirements of plant species, as defined by the National Vegetation Classification. Commercially available software (e.g. MATCH and TABLEFIT) will be used to assign a community label to each of the samples contained on the plant species database held by Silsoe College, thereby providing information on community tolerances. Priority will be given to communities of high conservation interest or those which rely on artificially managed hydrological systems over much of their remaining range; 2. Analysis of botanical data collected under the ESA monitoring programme in order to determine those sites suitable for hydrological characterisation; these sites would then serve to supplement the Silsoe database. Further field data will be gathered from wet grassland and related habitats that are hydrologically stable so that hydrological information is available for plant communities with highest conservation priority. In addition, site coverage will be extended to give a more complete range of climatic and edaphic conditions under which the information may be applied; 3. Validation of hydrological models on 4 sites studied previously in project BD0209 by means of continued hydrological monitoring. Resulting botanical data will be incorporated into a database of water regime requirements of plants, at both community and species levels; 4. Effects of soil nutrient availability and vegetation management on composition of plant communities in wet grassland habitats. These results will be correlated with water regime in order to confirm the ranges of soil fertility and grassland plant communities over which water regime is the predominant environmental factor; 5. Grassland response rates to changes in hydrological management, using data available from the ESA monitoring programme and other sources to detect suitable study sites and provide baseline botanical data; and 6. Development of appropriate methods for data interpretation and design of monitoring strategies (e.g. flow charts) for grassland sites undergoing hydrological manipulation. Results will be used to formulate more precise guidelines for appropriate monitoring strategies evaluating future wet grassland schemes.
Project Documents
• Final Report : The water-regime requirements and the response to hydrological change of grassland plant communities.   (631k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 1997

To: 2002

Cost: £398,770
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Silsoe College
Agricultural Land              
Environmental Protection              
Fields of Study
Environmental Stewardship