Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Enhancement of botanical diversity of permanent grassland and impact on hay production in Environmentally Sensitive Areas in the UK.

Abstract

Five methods for increasing the botanical diversity of permanent grassland, either by sowing site-specific species-rich grass/forb seed mixtures (strip-seeding; or over-sowing after sward disturbance by light harrowing, partial rotary cultivation or turf removal), or by introducing transplanted plug plants, were compared with a control treatment in replicated field experiments on six farm sites in Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) in England and Wales. Effects on herbage production under hay cutting in July and on botanical composition were recorded in the two subsequent years. Turf removal before sowing was the only treatment that significantly reduced herbage production; this treatment also had the greatest effect on increasing botanical diversity (to a mean of twenty-eight plant species per site compared with fifteen species for the control 2 years after sowing). The least successful establishment of sown species resulted from light harrowing before sowing; the rotary-cultivated and strip-seeded treatments increased species diversity, although by less than turf removal. Successful establishment of introduced species was greatest on sites having a low soil nutrient status. Species that established successfully from seed on most sites and treatments included the grasses Alopecurus pratensis, Cynosurus cristatus, Festuca rubra and Phleum pratense, and the forbs Achillea millefolium, Leucanthemum vulgare, Plantago lanceolata and Prunella vulgaris; in addition, Centaurea nigra, Hypochoeris radicata and Lotus corniculatus were also established by one or more methods on most sites. Lychnis flos-cuculi established successfully on mesotrophic sites, and Medicago lupulina on calcareous sites. Several species failed to establish at all or most sites where they were sown, e.g. Helianthemum nummularium, Pimpinella saxifraga and Rhinanthus minor. Most transplanted plug-plant species established successfully in the short term, but many failed to persist or their frequency in the sward remained low; exceptions included A. millefolium and P. lanceolata. The results are discussed in relation to the requirements for management to further the objectives of ESAs and agrienvironmental schemes.