Hay meadow restoration (conserve and sustain 280612)


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Hay Meadow Restoration: Don Gamble, Yorkshire Dales Millenium Trust

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Hay meadow restoration (conserve and sustain 280612)

  1. 1. Hay meadow restoration Don Gamble Hay Time Project Manager don.gamble@ydmt.org
  2. 2. Hay Time projectManagement and restorationresearchSeed harvesting methodsData analysis results
  3. 3. Hay TimeWorking with farmers to restore meadows across the Dales• May 2006 to December 2011• in partnership with YDNPA and supported by farmers, Natural England, Flora locale, National Trust, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and others• funded by NE, YDNPA, Rural Enterprise Scheme, Tubney Charitable Trust, charities and individuals• Into the Meadows restoration and education project from May 2012 to October 2013, funded by LEADER, SDF and EOCA• meadow projects in Bowland and Nidderdale
  4. 4. What did Hay Time provide?The missing „infrastructure‟ to enable annualprogrammes of restoration schemes to happen:An experienced project officer to: • identify and monitor seed donor and receptor meadows • develop schemes with farmers and NE • coordinate seed harvesting and spreading • provide meadow management advice • run training events • promote understanding of hay meadows
  5. 5. What did Hay Time provide?Machinery for seed harvesting and spreading • a range of specialised machinery • choices made after extensive researchTrained contractors • Marsden AES Ltd, based in Hellifield • operate, maintain and store machinery • tendering processes in 2006 and 2009
  6. 6. Management and restorationresearchSmith et al. (1988 - present): long-term studies of theeffects of management (cutting dates, fertiliseradditions, grazing regimes), seed introduction andyellow rattle • all deviations from traditional management result in loss of conservation value of upland meadows • adding seed to existing swards increases species number • species-rich grasslands are associated with high soil fungal:bacterial biomass ratios • adding functional species increases soil fungi • phased seed introduction is likely to be most successful
  7. 7. Restoration researchMortimer et al. (2002): testing efficacy of green hayspreading • greater range of species than brush harvesting • introduced species persist and expand populationsTrueman & Millett (2003): using green hay from SSSImeadows to create species-rich meadows • green hay more effective than seed mixtures and dry hay • after 3 years, mean species richness >20 per m2
  8. 8. Restoration researchPywell et al. (2012): Restoring species-rich grassland:principles and techniques • key abiotic constraint is residual soil fertility (P) ∴ restoration sites need low nutrient status • key biotic constraints are lack of seed sources and establishment niches ∴ seed addition and sward disturbance
  9. 9. Restoration researchBardgett et al. (2012): Plant-soil interactions andgrassland diversity restoration • belowground processes interact with management to influence species diversity • fungal:bacterial ratio could be used to assess the restorability of a species-poor meadow • expensive test, so could use Ellenberg fertility index as a surrogate • species-rich grasslands store more C and N
  10. 10. Restoration research Aspects of Applied Biology 115 Copies available from the Association of Applied Biologists www.aab.org.uk
  11. 11. Why does seed need to be added?Seed bank • 80% of desirable species produce short-lived or transient seed • soil often only contains seeds of species already present in the swardSeed rain • severe fragmentation of species-rich meadow resource • very short dispersal distances • changes in livestock movements and management
  12. 12. Restoration or enhancement?Depends on „starting point‟ of receptor meadowMeadow restoration:• seed addition and management improvement to species-poor meadows that lack functional speciesMeadow enhancement :• seed addition to traditionally-managed meadows that are fairly species-rich but „missing‟ some characteristic species
  13. 13. Restoration donorsHigh abundance of functional species Yellow rattle Meadow buttercup Sweet vernal Red clover Rhinanthus Ranunculus acris grass Trifolium minor Anthoxanthum pratense odoratum
  14. 14. Enhancement donorsSpecies-rich and high abundance of target species Wood crane‟s-bill Lady‟s mantle Great burnet Globeflower Geranium Alchemilla Sanguisorba Trollius sylvaticum spp. officinalis europaeus
  15. 15. Seed harvesting methodsGreen hay, hay concentrate, brush harvesting,vacuum harvesting, hand harvesting• local provenance• optimal timing• „natural‟ seed mix• potential introduction of fungal spores
  16. 16. Impact on the donor meadowNatural England and Flora locale recommendations:• harvest seed from no more than a third of the meadow• harvested areas are left for at least 3 years• only harvest when conditions are suitable• monitoring indicates no impact
  17. 17. Comparison of methods• all methods have their pros and cons• no single method is suitable for all schemes• lots of factors to take into account• lots of factors affect the outcome• lots of factors are outside our direct control• field-scale seed addition whenever possible, preferably using green hay• all except green hay rely on dry weather and harvesting before the donor meadow is cut
  18. 18. Comparison of methodsGreen hay a large quantity of seed from the widest range of plants only method that can be used in damp weather flexible timings for operations a large volume of material has to be transported and spread within an hour or so of being collected
  19. 19. Comparison of methodsHay concentrate removes the top third to a half of the hay crop so less bulk seed can be dried and stored misses shorter species need to be able to harvest before the donor meadow is cut need dry weather
  20. 20. Comparison of methodsBrush harvesting only removes seed and small part of the hay crop seed can be dried and stored misses shorter species need to be able to harvest before the donor meadow is cut need dry weather
  21. 21. Comparison of methodsVacuum harvesting only removes seed so minimal impact on hay crop can target particular species seed can be dried and stored small amount of seed harvested need to be able to harvest before the donor meadow is cut need dry weather
  22. 22. Choosing the best methodReceptor meadow: • „starting point‟ (restore or enhance) • area, access • proximity to receptor • receptor farmer‟s requirementsDonor meadow: • quality, area, access • donor farmer‟s requirementsOther considerations: • weather • how it fits with the rest of the programme • funding
  23. 23. Receptor meadow preparationThe receptor farmer needs to: • cut, field-dry, bale and remove the hay from the site before seed addition • create >50% bare ground to aid germination and establishment, through intensive grazing or mechanical disturbance • chain harrows • spring tines • power harrow • scarifier
  24. 24. What was achieved?• 69 schemes involving seed addition and/or management upgrade applied to 141 meadows at 52 farms• 165 ha restoration + 114 ha enhancement = 279 ha• field-scale seed addition on 170 ha (60% of area)• over 450 meadows surveyed• management advice provided to over 120 farmers• Into the Meadows target = 40 ha• Bowland Hay Time target = 40 ha
  25. 25. Data analysis• 76 meadows re-surveyed in 2011• data analysed by project staff, YDNPA and Roger Smith
  26. 26. Data analysisKey findings • all restoration methods have led to statistically significant increases in species richness, diversity and composition • green hay addition is associated with increased abundance or the introduction of a large number of species • vegetation at a majority of sites is, with time, moving away from that associated with improved grassland
  27. 27. SummarySeed addition is the start of a lengthy restorationprocessIf… • the receptor meadow is traditionally managed • the soil is neutral pH and low fertility • the right seeds are added in the right way • the existing vegetation is not too competitive • the sward is open enough for seeds to establishthen…some new species will be visible in the autumn, someneed to over-winter, some can take several years,but some will fail to germinate
  28. 28. “...a full record ofthemeadows...thatwill have enduringvalue.” George Peterken British Wildlife October 2010
  29. 29. © David Hill