Lowland Meadow

Lowland Meadow - John Miller - Explore Kent

Current Status

For the purposes of the UK and Kent BAPs, ‘Lowland meadows’ are not taken only to include land cut for hay, but most forms of unimproved, and therefore species-rich, neutral grassland, including pasture. In the Integrated Habitat Survey classification, ‘Lowland meadows’ includes grassland primarily consisting of three National Vegetation Classification (NVC), but for the purposes of the Kent Biodiversity Action Plan, it also includes other neutral grassland where this was recorded in the Kent Habitat Survey 2003 as species-rich. It excludes coastal and floodplain grazing marsh.

Grassland swards are often dominated by grass species including sweet vernal, crested dog's tail, bents, fescues and adder's-tongue fern but it is the flowers which make this habitat aesthetically appealing to the general public. These include green-winged and common spotted orchid, yellow rattle, oxeye daisy, dyer’s greenweed and pepper saxifrage.

Lowland meadows can also be important for reptiles, amphibians, small mammals including harvest mice, bats ,and birds including barn owls. Good examples of lowland meadows occur in areas where small fields and hedgerows systems are still intact, they often have small ponds associated with them. Most examples in Kent are found in the Low and High Weald. Loss of species-rich grassland, including Lowland Meadows, is linked to decline of many invertebrate species, including a number of UK BAP Priority bumblebee species with important, remaining populations in North Kent.

Massive losses of this habitat have occurred since the 1930s due to changes in agricultural practice – there are estimates of 97% loss nationally. The Kent Habitat Survey 2003 recorded 71 ha of lowland hay meadow and a further 587 ha of species-rich ‘other neutral grassland'.

Factors

  • Most good quality lowland meadows exist in a context of agricultural land which is now managed under more intensive regimes. Late summer hay cutting is out of synchronisation with other agricultural operations, Silage and haylage are now the most common form of grassland cropping and modern livestock production usually requires the use of high stocking rates, fertilisers and pesticides.
  • Small size of most existing hay meadows is at odds with increasing size of modern agricultural equipment.
  • Lack of appropriate management.
  • Lack of appropriate livestock.
  • Environmental Stewardship may encourage better management and restoration.
  • Organisations including , Kent Wildlife Trust, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group and Countryside Management Projects provide help and advice and practical help to landowners.

Current Action

  • 10% (69 ha) of the resource is protected as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)
  • A further 29% (194 ha) is within Local Wildlife Sites (SNCIs).
  • A number of SSSI sites are being extended beyond the SSSI boundary by acquisition and management (Marden Meadow, Cowden Pound).
  • Weald Meadows Initiative providing advice and sources of local seed for re-creation/restoration (mainly Sussex).

Objectives

  1. Maintain the extent and quality of all lowland meadow sites.
  2. Increase the overall extent of lowland meadows and reduce habitat fragmentation.
  3. Secure the appropriate conservation management of all existing/recreated lowland meadow SSSIs and SNCIs.

Relevant Habitat Action Plans

The relevant UK Habitat Action Plans:

The relevant UK Species Action Plans:

The relevant Kent Habitat Action Plans:

  • Coastal and floodplain grazing marsh