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Restoration

Species rich meadow

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 and nutrient cycling.

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

The restoration 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

The establishment 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

Since August 2016, we have been lucky enough to receive funds from the John Ellerman Foundation, to map as many floodplain meadow restoration sites as we can. This work involves visiting sites, collecting botanical data and soil profiles and helping with restoration issues. We aim to produce a map of restoration sites, alongside a data set from which we can produce case studies, which will be available via the website.

This work will last until July 2018. If you are involved in a floodplain meadow restoration project that has included some sort of intervention, with the aim of increasing your species diversity, please do get in touch. We would love to add your site to our list. Additionally, if we can visit the site, we can collect some botanical data and, from August 2016, we have a grant available to provide a small amount of funds to restoration projects that have for whatever reason, stagnated. The grant is not huge, and we would not be able to fund entire restoration projects, but it may help with small scale fencing or water pumps to support grazing on sites, or purchase of small amounts of seed or green hay for example, or installation of monitoring equipment. The fund will be available in 2016-17 and again from 2017-2018.