Fritillary 5

Contents Fritillary 5

Cover

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Editorial
F Watkins and D Lewis

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Introduction
C Lambrick

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The conservation of flood-plain meadows in Great Britain: an overview
R.G. Jefferson & C.E. Pinches
Summary

The great burnet-meadow foxtail meadow community (NVC MG4) is largely restricted to lowland river floodplains or stream sides in England. It is considered to have high biodiversity value as stands are species-rich and may support rare vascular plants. It is now a rare biotope with less than 1500 hectares estimated as remaining. Most sites occur south and east of a line from the Tees to the Severn estuaries. A high proportion (75%) of remaining fragments are less than 10 hectares in extent.

The grassland type occurs on free-draining circum-neutral alluvial loam soils where there is a high water table in autumn/winter or surface flooding. It is sustained by low-intensity management of hay cutting and aftermath grazing. However, stands rapidly lose their nature conservation value through agricultural improvement, management neglect and more slowly through prolonged water logging caused by neglect of surface drainage or through raised water levels.

The UK Biodiversity Action Plan sets targets for the maintenance, restoration and re-creation of the Lowland meadows priority habitat which include MG4 grassland (UK Biodiversity Group 1998 which have recently been revised [see http://www.ukbap.org.uk/bapgrouppage.aspx?id=98].

Conservation of the remaining resource has been mainly achieved through statutory designation of sites as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) with 92% of known sites having this designation. The challenge over the next decade is to ensure these and non-statutory sites are brought into favourable condition through securing appropriate management agreements on as many stands as possible and addressing external factors which may be having a deleterious impact. In addition effort will be focused on expanding the extent of the resource by restoration of semi-improved stands and re-creation from arable, around existing sites.

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What goes wrong? Why the restoration of beetle assemblages lags behind plants during the restoration of a species rich flood-plain meadow
B A Woodcock and A W McDonald
Summary

With under 1500 ha of species rich flood-plain meadows (Alopecurus - Sanguisorba MG4 grassland) remaining in England and Wales there is a great potential for restoration to re-establish and extend areas of this habitat. Restoration has conventionally considered only the plant communities that define these flood-plain meadows; however there are many other biotic and abiotic elements that must be considered if restoration is to be successful. In this paper we consider how restoration management used during the re-establishment of such flood-plain meadows will affect not only the plant, but also a dominant component of the invertebrate communities, the beetles. While both the plants and beetles benefit from hay cut followed by aftermath grazing, there is evidence that beetle communities lag behind the plants in the success achieved during restoration. We attribute this to fundamental differences in the way establishment of plants and beetles are promoted during restoration, specifically that the plants are artificially introduced as seed, whereas colonisation by beetles is by natural immigration. We suggest that this may have important long term consequences for restoration, namely that while a restored grassland may show strong floristic similarity to that of target flood-plain meadows, such similarity may be superficial and not seen for other trophic levels.

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The History of North Meadow, Cricklade
R. S. Wolstenholme
Summary

North Meadow, Cricklade is located Northern Wiltshire, at the western end of the Thames Valley, between the River Thames and the River Churn. It is owned and managed by Natural England and historic common rights remain vested in the Cricklade Court Leet. A long continuity of past agricultural management has given rise to a very diverse and interesting floral community including a large proportion of the British population of snake’s-head fritillaries. North Meadow is one of the best known examples in Britain of an ancient meadow. The meadow is designated under European law as a Special Area for Conservation together with Clattinger Farm SSSI, for the Lowland Hay Meadow communities they hold. The former is particularly noted for the relatively large natural population of the rare snake's head fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris) which it supports, and for which it is the most important British site.

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Hay meadow management for birds
A D McVey
Summary

Hay meadows play host to a wide variety of birds whose species composition changes with the seasons. On the Thames, hay meadows are particularly important for curlew (Numenius arquata) and other species such as corn bunting (Miliaria calandra) and yellowhammer (Emberiza citronella). The timing of the summer cut and botanical species composition will impact on the breeding and chick-feeding habitat available. In winter, periodic flooding will enable waterfowl such as teal (Anas crecca) and wigeon (Anas penelope) to feed on the fields.

The paper aims to review the importance of hay meadows to birds, highlighting the impact of management activities on the birds that use them, using research carried out on various sites across England and Scotland.

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The paleoecology of alluvial hay meadows in the Upper Thames valley
M. Robinson
Summary

The traditionally managed alluvial flood-meadows of the Upper Thames Valley have a colourful flora which has long attracted considerable interest from botanists. They belong to the MG4 grassland community.

A consideration of the origin of the hay meadows of the Upper Thames Valley needs to cover both the creation of appropriate geological and hydrological conditions for MG4 to thrive and also the palaeoecological record. Since MG4 relies on human management for its existence, there is also the question as to which natural communities supplied its members.

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A brief history of Port Meadow and Wolvercote Common and Picksey Mead, and why their plant communities changed over the last 90 years
A. W. McDonald
Summary

A multidisciplinary approach to landscape history enabled the examination of botanical, hydrological and agricultural data spanning some 4,000 years. The results showed Bronze Age humans affecting the vegetation by pasturing cattle on the floodplain extending from Yarnton to Oxford. In the Iron Age pastoralists were over-grazing Port Meadow and, between the sixth and ninth centuries, part of the floodplain was set aside for a hay crop whilst the aftermath or second grass crop continued to be shared as pasture. By Domesday floodplain meads were the most expensive land recorded in this survey and Port Meadow was established as common land belonging to Oxford. Having discussed the soil and water conditions on the floodplain and its potential effect on the plant communities, the management history of Port Meadow with Wolvercote Common is followed by that of Picksey Mead. Finally, the plant communities are discussed. Those established in 1981/2 are compared with data sets for the early 1920s and for 1996-2006. Changes in the species composition between sites are due to different management regimes and those over time and within sites are attributed to changes in the water-table.

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The effect of management on the biodiversity of a recreated floodplain meadow in the upper Thames valley: a case study of Somerford Mead
A. W. McDonald
Summary

Somerford Mead was re-created on former arable using local meadow foxtail-great burnet (Alopecurus pratensis-Sanguisorba officinalis) (MG4) seed, sown in the autumn of 1986, after an exploration of the seed bank, 1985-6. It has been managed as a hay-meadow since 1987 and has received experimental aftermath (second grass crop) management since 1989. The traditional management of cutting for hay followed by cattle grazing has produced a sward which is a little more species-rich than the sheep-grazed treatments in some years but both of these treatments are richer than the ungrazed plots. Firstly the succession of species included arable annuals which disappeared after three years. Secondly, to some extent, succession was dependent upon weather. Higher plant species, tolerant of dry conditions, established themselves in the first ten years followed by those of wetter conditions. Thirdly, as early as 1993 the cow-grazed plots were seen to be richer in invertebrates and, latterly, particularly by phytophagous beetles associated with legumes. The establishment of MG4 grassland has still not been completed in Somerford Mead when compared with Rodwell’s (1992) MG4 grassland.

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Government Initiatives applied to the future of flood meadows
A. Newson
Summary

The impact that the government and its policies have on flood meadows can be appreciated by considering the huge changes in the distribution and botanical composition of flood meadows that have occurred over the last fifty to sixty years.

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Guidelines for Contributors

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