A wildlife charity has launched a free app to help farmers and land managers in England with their hedgerow management plans.
The “Healthy Hedgerows” app enables users to find out where hedges are within their natural lifecycle and offers instant feedback on how they can be best managed to ensure their continued health.
The People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) hopes the app will help farmers create a thriving network of healthy hedges that criss-cross the UK’s countryside.
Hedgerows are vital habitats for farmland birds, providing them with a home, forage, hunting ground and shelter. They can also be wildlife havens for endangered species such as hazel dormice, hedgehogs and bats, acting as a a food source and safe corridor across the countryside.
Healthy hedgerows are a huge asset to farmers too, as they can provide forage for pollinators, offer crop protection, act as a stock barrier and give shelter for livestock. They can also be a source of income and have additional environmental benefits, including storing carbon, aiding flood control, reducing soil erosion and lowering air and water pollution levels.
Although there is an estimated 500,000km of hedgerow habitat in England, PTES says much of it is very old and requires management, including more sensitive trimming, periods of non-intervention and, in time, rejuvenation.
The app strips away these complexities and asks just six easy questions to rapidly assess each hedge, making the task of creating a farm-scale management plan easier.
“Whatever condition a hedge is in, it can be brought back to good health,” said Megan Gimber, key habitats project officer at PTES. “Our new app pinpoints where it is in its lifecycle and the best management options to adopt to get the most benefit for the farm and its precious wildlife.”
The app is part of the government-funded Close the Gap project, which is organising activities to champion hedgerows and is asking farmers to get involved to halt biodiversity decline, tackle climate change and preserve the unique character of the English countryside.
It is a partnership project with PTES, the Tree Council, the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, University of Reading and others.
Hedgerow planting and management are two of the public benefits explicitly mentioned as part of the upcoming Environmental Land Management scheme, which will replace existing agricultural payments in the coming years.
Visit the Apple Store or Google Play and search for Healthy Hedgerows to download the app.