Grassland: Selecting indicators of success for grassland enhancement (TIN050)

Cover of characteristic plant species

Indicator 9 is optional and allows you to set a target for the frequency of a specific species. It should be used to set acceptable frequencies for particular plant species which are characteristic of a target grassland community. Many of which are group 3.

Yellow-rattle can be used as an indicator of the correct management of certain hay meadows. It is an annual that sets seed from about late June onwards in the south and later further north or at higher altitudes. If the hay cut is taken too early, before the plant has ripe seed, it will be greatly diminished within a single season and if this management continues it might be lost from the site. Managing a site as pasture rather than taking hay, again even if only for a single season, will also greatly reduce its abundance. Its population will fluctuate naturally but it should be at least occasional (as defined in the FEP handbook) in most hay meadows. With correct management it can sometimes become very abundant and as it is a hemiparasite can greatly reduce yields of hay. Consult an ecologist if an agreement holder wishes to reduce yellow-rattle populations.

Indicator 10 is optional and should be used to set acceptable frequencies for species that are characteristic of a habitat, but can be invasive.

For the restoration option, management and control of the identified species may be part of the required management, or it might be a species that commonly does well on restoration sites but that we would not want to become dominant. There are endless possible permutations of habitats, species and management regimes and the target year selected will vary accordingly. A few examples are given below, but these are far from comprehensive so consult an ecologist for more detailed advice.

For example where the aim is to restore Lowland Calcareous Grassland to one of the communities dominated by fine leaved grasses (such as CG2 sheep's fescue - meadow oat-grass grassland) the indicator could be used to set limits on the amount of upright brome and tor-grass. In this instance these robust species should be less than <10% of the community and increases in their abundance might indicate that the grazing regime is too lax. Note, this indicator may not be necessary for all Lowland Calcareous Grassland communities that could be suitable targets for grassland restoration, because other communities naturally contain higher proportions of both of these grasses.

For restoration of Lowland Meadow and Pasture, where hay management is used, indicator 10 might apply to Yorkshire fog. This species can dominate if aftermath grazing is not employed, particularly on heavier soils . A limit of <15% cover would be about right for this grass.

The indicator could also be used for species such as false oat grass and hogweed.

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