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Sussex Wetland Conference: Margaret Pilkington
 

Sussex Wetland Conference: Margaret Pilkington

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The Restoration of Species-rich Floodplain Meadows

The Restoration of Species-rich Floodplain Meadows
and Washlands in the Ouse

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  • Let’s look at a washland in action - for most of the year this streamside meadow is dry
  • But is it necessary to use plugs?

Sussex Wetland Conference: Margaret Pilkington Sussex Wetland Conference: Margaret Pilkington Presentation Transcript

  • The restoration of species-rich floodplain meadows and washlands in the Ouse Margaret Pilkington with Will Pilfold, Andrew Holmes, Nick Steer, Jacqui Hutson and Christine Zaniewicka CCE, University of Sussex
  • The River Ouse Project Aim: restoration of flower-rich grassland along the river Ouse in Sussex
  • The River Ouse Project Aim: restoration of flower-rich grassland along the river Ouse in Sussex Ecological survey combined with historical land-use research (both documents and oral history) Picture of meadow grassland before agricultural improvement through to present-day To inform restoration decisions
  • Species-rich Meadows MG5 Crested dogstail – Common knapweed grassland
  • Cultivation and fieldnames as recorded at Tithe Apportionment Survey (researched by Nick Steer).
  •  
  • Connected Landscape of flower-rich grassland along Cockhaise Brook in Upper Ouse.
  • Species-rich Meadows
    • Biodiversity Action Plan target habitat
  • Species-rich Meadows
    • Biodiversity Action Plan target habitat
    • But they have gone on vanishing
  • Species-rich Meadows
    • Biodiversity Action Plan target habitat
    • But they have gone on vanishing
    97% species-rich grassland lost since 1930. (Natural England, 2011. Lost Life.)
  • Species-rich Meadows
    • Biodiversity Action Plan target habitat
    • But they have gone on vanishing
    • Value?
  • Species-rich Meadows
    • Biodiversity Action Plan target habitat
    • But they have gone on vanishing
    • Value?
    Ecosystem Services
  • Ecosystem Services
    • Ecosystem Services: “the benefits provided by ecosystems that contribute to making human life both possible and worth living” (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005).
  • Ecosystem Services
    • Ecosystem Services: “the benefits provided by ecosystems that contribute to making human life both possible and worth living” (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005).
    For streamside meadows: Wildflowers and pollinators
  • Cultivation and fieldnames as recorded at Tithe Apportionment Survey (researched by Nick Steer).
  • Cockhaise Brook Caseford Bottom on Cockhaise Brook
  •  
  • Cockhaise Brook Caseford Bottom on Cockhaise Brook
  •  
  • Broad Mead, Sheffield Park Meadow grassland River Ouse
  • Broad Mead, Sheffield Park Rush area Meadow grassland River Ouse
    • flood for 2-3 days
    • are ideal for flood alleviation because they quickly become available to store water again
    • were hay meadows
    • have free-draining soil
    Flash Washlands on the Sussex Ouse:
    • “ Two days after … I’ve drove a tractor over it and you wouldn’t see where I’ve been.”
    • ( farmer interviewed by Andrew Holmes in 2007)
  • Ecosystem Services
    • Ecosystem Services: “the benefits provided by ecosystems that contribute to making human life both possible and worth living” (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005).
    For streamside meadows: Wildflowers and pollinators Flood alleviation
  • Detailed NVC surveys on over 80 sites
  • Iron Gates
  • Sheffield Park riverside meadows
  • 1816 Estate Map
  • Cultivation and fieldnames as recorded at Tithe Apportionment Survey 1840-1 (researched by Nick Steer).
    • “ The Iron Gates, in my day [1948-1974] we always made hay…Because the grass there was a very fine grass and made beautiful soft hay, very suitable for feeding to calves.”
    • (97 year old farmer interviewed by Andrew Holmes in 2007)
    • “ When I came here, the Iron Gates was full of cowslips and as soon as I applied some fertiliser, the cowslips disappeared completely and have never come back.”
    • (97 year old farmer interviewed by Andrew Holmes in 2007)
  • Grassland Vegetation Diagram (adapted from NVC) flower-rich hay meadow (MG5) Knapweed – Crested dogstail grassland Iron Gates pre-1949 semi-improved grassland (MG6) Ryegrass – Crested dogstail grassland Iron Gates 1949- chemical fertiliser
    • Iron Gates… is incredibly free draining….we weren’t allowed to plough as part of the tenancy …. But what we did do back in, must have been 1998, …we actually burnt off the grass ….and direct-drilled grass seed in because the productivity of the grass wasn’t very great. It made great hay, but I didn’t want to make hay I wanted silage.
    • (farmer’s son interviewed by Andrew Holmes in 2007)
  • Grassland Vegetation Diagram (adapted from NVC) flower-rich hay meadow (MG5) Knapweed – Crested dogstail grassland Iron Gates pre-1949 semi-improved grassland (MG6) Ryegrass – Crested dogstail grassland Iron Gates 1949-1998 chemical fertiliser sown agricultural grassland (MG7) Ryegrass leys Iron Gates 1998 re-seeded
  • Came really well ... and then we had the floods of 2000…, and that killed most of it off and it was very patchy thereafter. Whereas the bit that hadn’t been reseeded recovered ‘cos it was obviously used to being under water. (farmer’s son interviewed by Andrew Holmes in 2007)
  • View of Iron Gates looking north-east, December 2007 River Ouse
  • Iron Gates about to flood, 6 December 2009
  • Iron Gates flooded January 2009
  • Grassland Vegetation Diagram (adapted from NVC) flower-rich hay meadow (MG5) Knapweed – Crested dogstail grassland Iron Gates pre-1949 semi-improved grassland (MG6) Ryegrass – Crested dogstail grassland Iron Gates 1949-1998 chemical fertiliser sown agricultural grassland (MG7) Ryegrass leys Iron Gates 1998 re-seeded MG7d Ryegrass – Meadow foxtail Iron Gates 2007 Ryegrass >10% cover Bent grass constant MG5 species present
  • Grassland Vegetation Diagram (adapted from NVC) flower-rich hay meadow (MG5) Knapweed – Crested dogstail grassland Iron Gates pre-1949 semi-improved grassland (MG6) Ryegrass – Crested dogstail grassland Iron Gates 1949-1998 chemical fertiliser sown agricultural grassland (MG7) Ryegrass leys Iron Gates 1998 re-seeded MG7d Ryegrass – Meadow foxtail Iron Gates 2007 Ryegrass >10% cover Bent grass constant Some MG5 spp present Enhancement with wildflower plugs and seed
  • Putting back the meadow flowers plant plugs? or wildflower seed?
  • Putting back the meadow flowers National Trust at Sheffield Park Weald Landscape Trust Kew at Wakehurst CCE, University of Sussex
  • Total Area: 70m by 120m
  • Conclusions from 2 years of field trial Plugs not seed: birdsfoot trefoil selfheal ragged robin Seed OK: yarrow cowslip oxeye Cowslip plug 6 December 2009
  • Conclusions from 2 years of field trial Plugs not seed: birdsfoot trefoil selfheal ragged robin Seed OK: yarrow cowslip oxeye Common knapweed? - may be slow to germinate
  • Restoring 20 hectares of washland meadow along the river Ouse Esmee Fairburn
      • Sussex Wildlife Trust
    • Kew at Wakehurst
      • Weald Landscape Trust
      • CCE, University of Sussex
  • Restoring 20 hectares of washland meadow along the river Ouse Esmee Fairburn 4 sites Wildflower seed collected by Kew 6,000 plugs grown from this seed 10% of each site planted and sown Green hay to be spread
  • Plug-planting in Iron Gates West 22 September 2011
  • Sowing WMI seed in Buckham Hill Brooks 4 November 2011
  • Future Work: Plugs for difficult species Flood alleviation for Uckfield
  • And what about the other Sussex Rivers?
  • Special thanks to our survey volunteers without whom this research would not have been possible: Frank Bidnall Peter Heeley Shirley Jones Suzie Lockyer Mike Luscombe Jennie Marten Leonie Mercer Michael Nailard Frances Parrish Robin Pepper Fabae Prodger John Prodger Helen Proctor Sue Rubinstein Shirley Siems Pauline Trotter Janet Wirdnam Jon Wood
  • and The Leverhulme Trust for funding us from 2006-2008