In 2007, a baseline survey was undertaken of almost 130 randomly chosen grassland parcels that had recently entered one of the HLS options HK6 (Maintenance of Species-Rich Semi-Natural Grassland) or HK7 (Restoration of Species-Rich Semi-Natural Grassland). These sites were resurveyed in 2014, to enable progress against the Indicators of Success set for these parcels/agreements to be assessed, and to obtain an overall assessment of the effectiveness of these management options, as applied at the outset of Environmental Stewardship.
The survey involved condition assessment, recording of vegetation in permanent quadrats and soil sampling.
This project produced the following outputs:
|Submission of Final Report||Defra report/publication|
The research underpins that:
- Targeting is important – some sites have inherent constraints (such as high fertility), but where there is good management, high quality wildflower meadows can be restored from impoverished starting points.
- Site preparation and introduction of appropriate species are key.
- Effective cutting and/or grazing management is also important, particular during early stages.
- To get the best results management may need to be adapted depending on conditions and circumstances.
Other findings include that between 2007 and 2014, 25% of sites improved in condition, 64% remained in the same condition category and 11% declined. The overall net gain was +14.4%. The most frequent reason for a site failing to meet good condition was too low frequency of high-value indicator species. The key factors identified for option success were careful targetting/initial assessment of site potential and active intervention, usually including seed introduction.