CLM Spring issue 2018 - Page 25



Habitat
management
news
Compiled by Conservation Management Advice, RSPB
Rejuvenation management
to improve hedgerow
habitats for wildlife
T
he role played by hedgerows is
well known and documented.
They make a significant contribution
to the historic, cultural and landscape
value of the countryside and provide
habitat for a wide range of flora
and fauna, several groups of which
have been shown to have positive
associations with hedges of dense
woody structure and few gaps,
a good width and many layers
of vegetation.
In some European countries,
hedges are protected by legislation
and designated a priority habitat
under the EU Biodiversity Strategy.
Several European countries provide
financial incentive for appropriate
management under agri-environment
schemes, while in the UK the 1997
Hedgerow Regulations limit their
removal.
Despite the profile, however, in the
UK there has been a decline in the
length and structural condition of
hedgerows over the ten years since
the introduction of the Regulations.
This has been attributed largely to a
lack of rejuvenation management,
neglect and over-frequent trimming
with mechanised ails. A similar
pattern of deterioration is being
experienced across much of northwest Europe.
Rejuvenation management to
promote vigorous basal growth is
necessary in order for a hedge to
maintain its dense structure and
to prevent it from becoming leggy
and gappy. Hedge-laying has for
many centuries been the traditional
form of management used in
several European countries. Another
traditional method is coppicing and
the removal of most of the aboveground part of the hedge.
In the UK, the proportion of
hedge-laying fell from around 50%
in the mid-20th century to about
2% by 2007. Over a 40-year rotation
this equates to 16–27% of hedges
being rejuvenated. Similar reductions
have been experienced elsewhere
in Europe.
Research over the past 20 years
has revealed how the method of
rejuvenation can have an effect on
the hedge’s rates of regrowth and
structure and subsequent habitat
value for wildlife. Layed hedges have
tended to show the greatest diversity
and abundance of species ranging
from plants and invertebrates to birds
and mammals.
As a result of the continued
deterioration in the structure and
condition of hedgerows, it has
been realised that there is a need to
develop cost-effective methods of
rejuvenation which are comparable
to the rates of woody regrowth and
dense basal structure achieved by
traditional methods.
A recent paper published in
Biological Conservation reports on
testing conducted on the effects of
three modern alternative methods of
rejuvenation on hedge structure and
provision of berries for wildlife, and
compares them to traditional hedgelaying, coppicing and an unmanaged
control, using a large-scale
manipulative field experiment. The
methods tested included two newly
developed, faster alternatives to
hedge-laying (conservation hedging
and wildlife hedging), also reshaping
with a circular saw, and coppicing to
ground level.
The paper hypothesises that:
1. modern alternatives to traditional
hedge-laying are cheaper to apply
to typical hedgerows in intensively
managed landscapes;
2. these alternative methods would
have a similar beneficial effect on
hedge regrowth and structure; and
3. provision of berries by hedgerows
for overwintering wildlife would
initially be most reduced by coppicing
compared with other forms of
rejuvenation, but any reduction
would be relatively short-term.
While the results are directly
relevant to agri-environment
schemes in England, the study’s
conclusions have broader Europewide significance for countries
implementing similar schemes
or other forms of hedgerowmanagement regulation.
Five sites were chosen, four of
which were dominated by mature
Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna:
at Monks Wood and Wimpole Hall,
both in Cambridgeshire, Newbottle
Estate, in Northamptonshire, and
Utcoate Grange, in Buckinghamshire.
The fifth site was at Crowmarsh
Battle, in Oxfordshire. The hedge
there was a younger mixed-species
hedge, dominated by Hawthorn,
with smaller amounts of Blackthorn
Prunus spinosa, Field Maple Acer
campestre, Spindle Euonymus
February 2016 British Wildlife 171
BWM27_3 05 habitat management news.indd 171
29/01/2016 13:06

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