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Restoration

Photo of restoration site in Wiltshire showing a good mix of different species

 

Why should we restore, create or expand floodplain meadows?

Floodplain meadows (as with all other meadows) were created through human intervention, with the aim of producing a hay crop to sustain livestock over the winter. We greatly value them now for their wildlife, archaeology, history, recreational uses, flood storage, nutrient cycling and productive agricultural system.

As well as protecting surviving floodplain meadows, we need to restore as many as possible and create new ones. In addition to increasing the total area of species-rich grassland, these actions will create protective buffers around existing areas and link fragmented sites, increasing the benefits they provide to society, and enhancing the resilience of their rare plant communities to external pressure, such as climate change (e.g. increased frequency and intensity of floods and droughts). Restoration and re-creation of floodplain medows will help to increase the amount of carbon stored in our floodplain soils, and protect rivers from damaging pollution. 

Restoration and creation

Restoration is the making of a floodplain meadow on an area of grassland which has undergone substantial changes in management (e.g. changes to farming intensity or water level), but that still retains some of the charateristics of the original habitat.

Creation is the making of a meadow on an area which has lost all characteristics of a meadow, for example on arable land or on improved grassland that has been re-seeded with agricultural plant varieties.

Reasons for restoring them:

  • They are one of the most species-rich habitats in the UK. We would like to prevent them from disappearing and would like to see more.
  • They represent an important element of our rural history and are therefore a piece of cultural heritage that we should protect.
  • They are a viable commercial enterprise that delivers a product (hay) that is valuable and sustainably produced. They also offer forage for livestock grazing in late summer and early autumn. They are integral to a cherished rural landscape. 
  • They provide important ‘ecosystem services’ to us (including storage of sediments and floods, habitat for pollinating insects and many other species).
  • They provide storage of carbon, sediments, nutrients and floodwaters.
  • They are great for personal enjoyment, rest, relaxation and mental well being.

To restore these meadows effectively, access to good information relating to methods, seed sources, timing and machinery is vital.  To assist you, we have tried to compile a summary of available information with links, some tools to help you understand your sites better, and some case studies from others around the country who are trying, or have tried such projects.

John Ellerman Floodplain Meadows Restoration Project

Phase 1

From 2015 to 2018 we secured a grant from the John Ellerman Foundation to visit as many floodplain meadow restoration projects across the UK as possible with objecitves to:

  1. Visit floodplain meadow restoration sites not previously visited by the FMP.
  2. Re-visit sites we have visited before to assess change
  3. Increase restoration data on the Meadows database
  4. Allocate a small amount of capital funding to help restoration projects develop or undertake monitoring.

As a result of this funding we have:

Phase 2

We have now secured a second phase of funding from the John Ellerman Foundation. This will start in 2021 and involve:

a. Re-visit some sites from Phase 1 to determine progress and re-visit sites where restoration is being considered but not yet implemented. 

b. Interview landowners and site managers to find out more about their restoration activity. 

c. Produce more publicly available case studies.

d. Run a conference in year 2 focussed on restoration case studies and land managers.

e. Influence policy through our Advocacy Manager.