Monitoring of Hay Meadows in Pennine Dales ESA


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Maintain species-rich, semi-natural grassland

Action Link
Farmland Conservation
  1. Maintain species-rich, semi-natural grassland

    A long-term replicated before-and-after trial in 1987-2002 on upland hay meadows in the Pennine Dales Environmentally Sensitive Area, County Durham, England (Defra 2004a) found that plant species richness improved overall between 1987 (when the Environmentally Sensitive Area was introduced) and 1995, then declined to close to its original level by 2002. Condition was broadly maintained and slightly enhanced on semi-improved and improved hay meadows, but there was deterioration among the best quality unimproved hay meadows, with an increase in grass species at the expense of herbs. There were clear relationships between vegetation change and management, with the following practices leading to reduced vegetation quality: early cutting (before 15 July), spring grazing (especially if prolonged after 15 May) and application of inorganic nitrogen. The first two practices led to a decline in herb richness, while the third led to a decline in characteristic hay meadow vegetation. The study built on monitoring carried out between 1987 and 1995, by resurveying a subset of 164 sites between June and August 2002. During the resurvey, vegetation was surveyed in three 1 m2 quadrats/site, and management information from 1995 to 2002 was collected by interviewing farmers.


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