How hedge woody species diversity and habitat change is a function of land use history and recent management in a European agricultural landscape

Thomas McCann, Alan Cooper, David Rogers, Paul McKenzie, Thomas McErlean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)
44 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

European hedged agricultural landscapes provide a range of ecosystem services and are an important component of cultural and biodiversity heritage. This paper investigates the extent of hedges, their woody species diversity (including the influence of historical versus recent hedge origin) and dynamics of change. The rationale is to contribute to an ecological basis for hedge habitat management. Sample sites were allocated based on a multivariate classification of landscape attributes. All field boundaries present in each site were mapped and surveyed in 1998 and 2007. To assess diversity, a list of all woody species was recorded in one standard 30 m linear plot within each hedge. There was a net decrease in hedge habitat extent, mainly as a result of removal, and changes between hedges and other field boundary types due to the development and loss of shrub growth-form. Agricultural intensification, increased rural building, and variation in hedge management practices were the main drivers of change. Hedges surveyed at baseline, which were lost at resurvey, were more species rich than new hedges gained. Hedges coinciding with historical land unit boundaries of likely Early Medieval origin were found to be more species rich. The most frequent woody species in hedges were native, including a high proportion with Fraxinus excelsior, a species under threat from current and emerging plant pests and pathogens. Introduced species were present in circa 30% of hedges. We conclude that since hedge habitat distribution and woody species diversity is a function of ecology and anthropogenic factors, the management of hedges in enclosed agricultural landscapes requires an integrated approach.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)692-701
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Volume196
Early online date31 Mar 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017

Keywords

  • Hedge
  • Woody species
  • Species diversity
  • Introduced species
  • Ecosystem services
  • Landscape history

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