Water needs

Species rich meadow

Great burnet-meadow foxtail MG4 meadows require adequate surface drainage to allow water to flow freely back to watercourses following a flood, and to prevent the retention of rainwater on the surface for long periods. Many sites lie over river gravel deposits which ensures a well drained site.

They are generally intolerant of water logging during the growing season, to the extent that too much water can be more damaging than too little at this time of year.

These grasslands have developed under a system of traditional agricultural management and are therefore reliant on the surface drainage system developed and maintained by farmers. Surface drainage provided by features such as grips, gutters and foot drains should be regularly maintained to ensure their continued function. The input of nutrients locked up on the sediment deposited after a flood is important to compensate for nutrient losses to the system during the hay cut.

See our plant grid to find out more about different plant communities and their water and nutrient requirements.

Follow this link to find out more about how plants respond to water regime changes, and the science behind our understanding of this relationship.

Past flood protection works that involved deepening, straightening or embanking rivers can be detrimental to MG4 meadows. Apart from the direct loss of habitat, these changes may result in a reduction of winter floods on the site, or in a prolonged period of waterlogging during summer flooding, when floodwater is trapped on the floodplain by the embankments. The various hydrological mechanisms that can support the MG4 community are shown below:

The annual cycle of water requirements for the great burnet-meadow foxtail (MG4) community is shown in the following model:

The green area shows the target hydrological range for the community. The amber area shows the range of soil-water levels which, if experienced in most years, will result in change in the community. The red area shows the threshold which, if breached in 1 year, a change is likely to be experienced. See Eco Hydrological Guidelines (B.D. Wheeler, D.J.G. Gowing, S.C. Shaw,, J.O. Mountford, and R.P. Money, 2004. Ecohydrological Guidelines for Lowland Wetland Plant Communities (Eds. A.W. Brooks, P.V. Jose, and M.I. Whiteman,). Environment Agency (Anglian Region))

Further information