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Restoration of Herbaceous Hedgerow Flora: Review and Analysis of Ecological Factors and Restoration Techniques. Phase 1. - BD5301

Hedgerows characterise the landscape of much of England and Wales and provide valuable habitat for native plants and animals. The herbaceous vegetation in the hedge base is an important part of the overall hedgerow habitat but the diversity of its flora has declined, primarily due to intensive agricultural practices in the adjacent land and changes in hedgerow management practices. Hedgerows are designated as a Priority Habitat under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, with policy targets that include reversing the decline in the herbaceous hedgerow flora by 2015. Cross-compliance rules under the Single Payment Scheme and field margin management under agri-environment schemes will help to achieve this but there is also a need for more positive restoration techniques to be applied. However, hedgerows are complex habitats and the herbaceous flora is highly variable, so the most appropriate restoration techniques need to be identified.

The overall aim of the project is to characterise the herbaceous hedgerow flora in England and Wales and review current information on habitat restoration in order to identify the most suitable methods for a range of herbaceous vegetation types.

A large number of hedgerow surveys have been carried out, including the GB-wide Countryside Survey and local surveys done by a range of organisations. Datasets from these surveys will be reviewed and those with data on the herbaceous hedgerow flora will be obtained and collated. Using this information, the herbaceous hedgerow flora will be classified into groups differentiated by plant species with distinctive ecological characteristics, such as particular growth forms or an affinity to particular habitats. These groups will be readily interpretable and recognisable in the field, and will therefore have practical application for setting hedgerow management objectives to assist the process of meeting the Habitat Action Plan targets. A review will also be carried out of the relationship between the hedgerow herbaceous plant flora and soil properties, the effect of hedge management on these flora and vegetation restoration techniques. In addition to studies carried out on hedgerows, the review will cover those done on other habitats in which herbaceous hedgerow species occur, including field margins, grassland and woodland. Restoration techniques with most potential will then be identified for each of the practical groups of hedgerow flora and the likely timescales for achieving restoration targets will be estimated.

A sampling framework will be developed for surveying a representative sample of the herbaceous hedgerow flora in England and Wales. The sample will be stratified to ensure adequate representation of the flora groups across different regions. Recommendations will also be made for field sampling methods.

Results from the project will feed into Phase 2, which will provide final recommendations for restoration of the herbaceous hedgerow flora. These will be used by Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government to develop agri-environment scheme guidelines and payments, and by land managers and their advisers in carrying out practical restoration measures. This will help to conserve this important landscape feature and wildlife habitat and achieve Biodiversity Action Plan targets for hedgerows.
1. To obtain existing data sets containing information on the herbaceous flora of the UK’s hedgerows and assemble information on functional attributes of component species from existing reference sources.

2. To characterize the UK’s herbaceous hedgerow flora using these existing flora data sets into practical groups that can be used in objective setting, planning and implementation of restoration projects.

3. To search for existing soils information relating to hedgerow plants or groups.

4. To review available information on the effects of hedgerow management on the herbaceous flora.

5. To review and summarize potential restoration techniques relevant to the herbaceous hedgerow flora, including other comparable habitats.

6. To estimate likely timescales for restoration based on technique and ecological constraints.

7. To develop a framework for representative sampling of hedgerow flora groups and their soils and management, and provide recommended sample sizes.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Restoration of Herbaceous Hedgerow Flora: Review and Analysis of Ecological Factors and restoration Techniques. Phase 1.   (221k)
• Final Report - Annex : Restoration of Herbaceous Hedgerow Flora: Review and Analysis of Ecological Factors and restoration Techniques. Phase 1.   (1086k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2009

To: 2010

Cost: £59,826
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Environmental Protection              
Habitat conservation              
Nature conservation