A new survey is encouraging farmers to health-check their hedgerows to safeguard the future of this important habitat.
The Great British Hedgerow Survey, launched by wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), is open for farmers and landowners to complete online. To take part visit: hedgerowsurvey.ptes.org
Farmers who take part will be offered instant feedback about the health of each hedge, as well as tailored advice on what type of management will ensure it thrives in the future.
The results also provide conservationists with vital data helping build a national picture of the health of Britain’s hedges.
Megan Gimber, key habitats project officer at PTES, said: “With 70% of UK land being agricultural, hedgerows offer the safest route for wildlife to travel across the countryside. We would love to see a bigger, better and more joined-up hedgerow network to give our wildlife the fighting chance of survival they deserve.”
Historically, the UK lost about half its hedgerows after the Second World War. But the rates of direct hedge removal have reduced in recent decades, thanks largely to agri-environment schemes that incentivise landowners to establish and maintain hedgerows on farmland.
Hedgerows are a vital part of the farming landscape in the UK, providing important services for farmers including shelter for livestock and crops while helping control soil erosion and runoff.
As well as lending beauty and character to the farming landscape, they provide a wide range of benefits to wildlife and the environment, such as habitat and foraging sites for birds, mammals, butterflies and other insects.
They also act as corridors for the movement of animals, shelter and a source of food.
Hedgerows can also help in the fight against climate change. According to the Wildlife Trusts, a 2km hedgerow has the potential to store between 1,200kg and 1,600kg of carbon dioxide. The average car generates this much carbon dioxide by travelling 6,000 miles. There are more than 475,000km of managed hedgerow in Britain.
The survey has attracted the attention of the BBC’s Countryfile and it will feature on its next episode to be broadcast at 7pm on Sunday (25 August) on BBC One. Presenter Helen Skelton travelled to Warwickshire to meet the PTES team and find out why hedgerows are in need of more wide-scale management.
Hedgerows and wildlife facts
- One study counted 2,070 different species in just one 85m stretch of hedge
- 55% of the priority species associated with hedgerows are dependent, or partially dependent on hedgerow trees
- Poor quality, gappy hedges are detrimental to several farmland bird species
- Since different shrub species flower and fruit at different times, having a wide diversity of plant species extends the flowering and fruiting period. This benefits nectar and pollen feeding invertebrates, and their predator species
- Sixteen out of the 19 birds included in the Farmland Bird Index, as used by government to assess the state of farmland wildlife, are associated with hedgerows
Hedgecutting and trimming season due to reopen
The closed period for hedgecutting, which aims to protect nesting and rearing birds, is due to come to an end.
Under cross-compliance rules, hedgecutting is banned from 1 March through to 31 August across all four devolved regions of the UK.
The hedgecutting season opens for all from Sunday 1 September.