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

Bare ground

There are two bare ground indicators, one covering localised patches of bare ground, the other relating to the extent and distribution across the whole site. These can be used to:

  • manage gross damage (eg from rabbits);
  • encourage small amounts of scattered bare ground for invertebrate interest; and
  • create opportunities for seedling germination.

Some dry grassland habitats can hold high populations of rabbits, which can cause extensive areas of bare ground around warrens. Such high numbers of rabbits also have significant effects on surrounding plant communities, which are often characterised by the species they avoid eating. The bare ground created can provide suitable conditions for certain invertebrates and annual plants. Other species that can benefit from high rabbit populations include stone-curlew (mainly in Wessex and parts of East Anglia), as well as predators, such as buzzard.

This indicator can be used to help minimise the negative impacts of rabbits, and rabbit control measures may be required in order to meet this.

Agreement year

This depends on the condition of the site at the start of the agreement. Where the rabbit population is not high at the start of the agreement the limit can be set for year 2 onwards. Where a problem exists and needs to be brought under control a later year can be set, depending on local circumstances. In grassland creation, the target could also be set for year 2 onwards, to attempt to limit the development of a rabbit problem in reverting land.

Frequency/Density/% Cover

Bare ground areas of 2m x 2m are suggested as a default which should not be exceeded during the life of the agreement. If bare areas are larger than this steps should be taken to stop further spread, with a maximum area set at up to 5m x 5m (i.e. 0.0025 ha), and to reduce the size of areas in the medium term.

Resource protection considerations

Bare ground can be subject to soil erosion by water and wind.

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