Definition of favourable conservation status for hedgerows

Staley, Joanna T.; Wolton, Robert; Norton, Lisa ORCID: 2020 Definition of favourable conservation status for hedgerows. Worcester, Natural England, 70pp. (RP2943)

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An output of Natural England’s Defining Favourable Conservation Status (DFCS) project. Hedgerows are a widespread Priority Habitat (i.e. a habitat of principal importance for biodiversity conservation), providing key semi-natural habitat for a broad range of biodiversity, including many threatened species. They occur predominantly in lowland farmland but also in urban areas. The distribution of hedgerows reflects historic and current agricultural and social practices, and underlying biophysical variables. Hedgerows are largely man-made features, which historically were created through the planting of woody species for the specific purpose of dividing up rural land and preventing the movement of stock between land parcels. In urban areas, hedgerows have mainly been planted to create boundaries between properties, for aesthetic or wildlife reasons within gardens and parks. The length of hedgerows in England needs to increase substantially in order to support thriving biodiversity and to achieve Favourable Conservation Status (FCS). There is a moderate amount of evidence supporting the recommended level of increase in hedgerow, but the evidence that is available overwhelmingly supports an increase in length for a range of taxa. Overall confidence in an increase in hedgerow length being required is high. Higher average density of hedgerows (in suitable habitats) due to increased length will result in improvements in the provision of hedgerow habitat for wildlife and in landscape connectivity. The use of hedgerows by mobile species for daily movement (e.g. foraging) is well supported by available evidence, across a range of taxa. There is less evidence for the role of hedgerows for population dispersal or migration, despite their strong potential to support connectivity and the likely importance of this in the context of climate change. Since hedgerows consist primarily of shrubs and trees, their distribution is associated with that of shrubby and/or woodland habitats. There is strong evidence that to achieve Favourable Conservation Status the national distribution of hedgerows is likely to remain broadly unchanged. However, increases in extent will alter the smaller scale distribution of hedgerows in parts of the current range. Evidence about the specific types of landscapes in which additional hedgerows may best be placed to optimise support to biodiversity is limited. The quality of hedgerows, defined through a series of structural and functional attributes, strongly determines how well hedgerows support biodiversity across a broad range of taxa. Hedgerow height and width, the provision of flowers (pollen and nectar resources for pollinators) and berries (for overwintering wildlife), the presence of mature trees, and the density and structural diversity of the hedgerow network are all examples of quality attributes which affect how well hedgerows can support wildlife. Detailed recommendations and thresholds for these quality attributes are given in this document, based both on current hedgerow condition criteria and additional attributes for which good evidence is available. Overall, the evidence for the requirement that hedgerows need to be of good quality (as defined here) to support thriving biodiversity is strong. Currently, the majority of hedgerows in England are not in good condition, which poses a considerable threat to achieving FCS for hedgerows.

Item Type: Publication - Report
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
ISBN: 9781783546657
Funders/Sponsors: Natural England
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Freely available via Official URL link.
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 27 Nov 2020 10:25 +0 (UTC)

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