Hedgerow Biodiversity Action Plan
The UK Biodiveristy Action Plan (UK BAP) (http://www.ukbap.org.uk) is the UK Government's response to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) signed in 1992. The plan was published in 1994 (http://www.ukbap.org.uk/library/Plan_LO.pdf) and describes the UK's biological resources and commits a detailed plan for the protection and sustainable use of these resources, placing an emphasis on a partnership approach. It contains objectives for conserving and enhancing species and habitats as well as promoting public awareness and contributing to international conservation efforts.
Following on from the initial strategy publication, 391 Species Action Plans (SAPs) and 45 Habitat Action Plans (HAPs) were published for the UK's most threatened (i.e. "priority") species and habitats. These plans describe the status of each habitat and species, outlines the threats they face, set targets and objectives for their management, and propose actions necessary to achieve recovery. Following a review, the most comprehensive analysis ever undertaken in the UK, in 2007 the UK BAP now contains 1149 species and 65 habitats (http://www.ukbap.org.uk/PriorityHabitats.aspx) that have been listed as priorities for conservation action.
National Action Plans have been developed which set priorities for each habitat and species listed, which includes a description of the habitat or species and details actions and targets for their conservation.
In additional there are over 160 Local Biodiversity Action Plans (LBAPs), normally at county level, which include actions to address the needs of the UK priority habitats and species in the local area, together with a range of other plans for habitats and species that are of local importance or interest.
Implementation of the UK BAP is the responsibility of several over-arching groups. Beneath this Lead Partners take responsibility for the co-ordination of work required to plan, monitor and review the progress of the implementation of each individual Plan. The Lead Partner works with a range of organisations who wish to contribute to the implementation of the Plans, through a Steering Group, and together they work to secure funding and to deliver the actions.
The lead partner for Hedgerows is Defra, who also chair the Hedgerow Habitat Action Plan Steering Group, the partner body from which Hedgelink developed.
To measure progress on the actions taken against each plan a three to five yearly reporting cycle is in progress. The first, in 1999 (http://www.ukbap.org.uk/library/biodiv1.pdf), with subsequent rounds in 2002 (http://www.ukbap.org.uk/library/2002ReportPamphlet.pdf), 2005 (http://www.ukbap.org.uk/library/Reporting2005/UKBAPReport05.pdf). The 2008 reporting round will run from September 2008 to November 2008, the results of which will contribute to the 2010 targets for each Plan.
The Scotland Act (1998), the Government of Wales Act (1998) and the Northern Ireland Act (1998) introduced schemes of devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Under these changes, relations with the European Union and obligations arising out of Treaties and Conventions remain the responsibility of the UK government but the devolved administrations are responsible for implementing obligations that concern devolved matters. Powers on environmental regulation are among the policy areas devolved.
The four countries have published country strategies to help guide the implementation of biodiversity conservation, sustainable development and environmental concerns. In 2002 the Northern Ireland Biodiversity Strategy was published and England followed with Working with the Grain of Nature in the same year. In 2004, Scotland published Scotland's Biodiversity It's in Your Hands and the Environment Strategy for Wales was published in 2006.
The original Hedgerow HAP was confined to 'ancient and/or species rich' hedges only, however, as part of the review of targets the definition for the habitat was expanded to include all hedgerows, consisting predominantly (at least 80%) of at least one native woody species of tree/shrub. This was in recognition of the fact that hedgerows are important features of the countryside and fulfill an important connectivity function. Furthermore wildlife is not restricted to species-rich hedgerows or ancient hedgerows, and as hedgerow trees are not restricted exclusively to these types either, their wildlife is more generally distributed. However, it is recognized that for some species, woody species-rich hedgerows are more likely to supply necessary resources required for certain species such as Dormouse. There is also evidence of greater small mammal abundance and greater bird species richness and abundance in woody species-rich hedgerows (Kotzageroris & Mason 1997. Macdonald & Johnson 1995. Green et al 1994). Accordingly the concept of 'species-richness' and the value of ancient hedgerows are recognised in the HAP.
The reference to native woody species in the existing HAP is clarified for the new definition as any native tree or shrub species. This does not include archeophytes (i.e.plants naturalised before AD 1500) and sycamore. Each country has the flexibility to be able to define 'native'. Climbers such as honeysuckle and bramble are recognised as integral to many hedgerows and they provide important food resources and shelter for wildlife. However, they require other woody plants to be present to form a distinct woody boundary feature, and therefore they are not included in the definition of woody species for the purposes of the HAP.
The HAP definition is limited to boundary lines of trees or shrubs. It excludes banks or walls without woody shrubs on top of them and the new definition would also exclude these features. Associated features of woody shrubs and trees, such as banks, ditches and verges are included in the definition. Hedgerows with a rich basal flora are also included. The limits of the hedgerow habitat are further clarified as 'any boundary line of trees or shrubs over 20m long and less than 5 m wide'. This includes 'classic' shrubby hedgerows, lines of trees, shrubby hedgerows with trees and very gappy hedgerows (where each shrubby section may be less than 20m long, but the gaps are less than 20m). The figure below shows the key used for determining if a feature is a hedgerow and if it is, the type of hedgerow.
A key for determining if a feature is a hedgerow and the hedgerow type (taken from the Hedgerow Survey Handbook). Click image for a bigger version (opens in a new window).
Any bank, wall, ditch or tree within 3 m of the centre of the hedgerow is considered to be part of the hedgerow habitat, as is the herbaceous vegetation within 3 m of the centre of the woody hedgerow.
This is where the structural species making up a 30m section of hedgerow include at least five (or at least four in northern and eastern England, upland Wales and Scotland) woody species that are either native somewhere in the UK, or which are archaeophytes (See Appendix 11 of the Hedgerow Survey Handbook. Climbers and brambles do not count towards the total except for roses. Hedgerows that contain fewer woody species but have a rich basal herbaceous flora may also be defined as species-rich, but criteria to define these have to be set on a local basis as there is no national definition.
Hedges are important not just for biodiversity, but also for farming, landscape, cultural and archaeological reasons. Hedgerows are important habitats in their own right. They are a primary habitat for at least 47 extant species of conservation concern in the UK, including 13 globally threatened or rapidly declining ones, more than for most other key habitats. They are especially important for butterflies and moths, farmland birds, bats and dormice. Indeed, hedgerows are the most significant wildlife habitat over large stretches of lowland UK and are essential refuge for a great many woodland and farmland plants and animals. Over 600 plant species (including some endemic species such as a whitebeam Sorbus devoniensis), 1500 insects, 65 birds and 20 mammals have been recorded at some time living or feeding in hedgerows.
Hedgerows may also act as wildlife corridors for many species, including reptiles and amphibians, allowing dispersal and movement between other habitats, although this is difficult to prove conclusively.
Data collected for Countryside Survey 2000 in 1998 estimates that in the UK there is 814,159-km of hedgerows. The breakdown for the four individual countries is shown below;
The Country Side Survey's Boundary and Linear features Report provides more information on the analysis of the data for hedgerows and linear boundary features, based on survey work undertaken in 1998. This survey has been repeated in 2007/8 with reports due before then end of 2008. See the Country Side Survey's website.
Since 1945 there has been a drastic loss of hedgerows through removal and neglect throughout the UK, especially in eastern counties of England. Between 1984 and 1990, the net loss of hedgerow length in England was estimated as 21%, in Scotland 27% and in Wales 25%. This loss was the result of a combination of outright removal (1.7% per annum) and neglect (3.5% pa). In England and Wales at least the loss continued between 1990 and 1993, with neglect becoming increasingly important and removal less so. No comparable figures are available for Northern Ireland.
- Neglect (no cutting or laying) leading to hedgerows changing into lines of trees and the development of gaps. This reflects modern high labour costs and loss of traditional skills.
- Too frequent and badly timed cutting leading to poor habitat conditions, the development of gaps and probable species changes.
- Loss of hedgerow trees through senescence and felling, without encouraging replacements.
- Use of herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers right up to the bases of hedgerows leading to nutrient enrichment and a decline in species diversity.
- Increased stocking rates, particularly of sheep, leading to hedgerow damage and the need to fence fields. The presence of fences reduces the agricultural necessity for hedge maintenance and so hastens their decline. The modern practice of "ranching" (placing netting around several fields to form a grazing block) also contributes to the deterioration of internal hedges).
- Removal for agricultural and development purposes.
These revised targets below were published in 2006. Previous targets can be viewed on the BARS website.
|T1||Maintain the net extent of hedgerows across the UK.|
|The target refers to maintaining net extent in relation to complete removal and relates to all hedgerows consisting predominately of at least one native species. Losses of hedgerows will be minimised by the Hedgerow Regulations 1997 (in England & Wales) and by cross-compliance rules and by encouraging good management so as to reduce losses through neglect. New planting to replace lost hedgerows will be encouraged primarily through grants under agri-environment schemes|
|T2||Maintain the overall number of individual, isolated hedgerow trees (estimated by CS 2000 to be 1.8 million in Great Britain in 1998) and the net number of isolated veteran trees (to be estimated for the first time by CS 2007).|
|Current work by the Tree Council is highlighting the importance of hedgerow trees and they are also running a Tree Tagging campaign. Cross-compliance and agri-environment field margins will help reduce disturbance under the canopy of these trees, and agri-environment schemes will also be able to encourage tagging and new planting where appropriate.|
|T3||Ensure that between 2005 and 2010 hedgerows remain, on average, at least as rich in native woody species.|
|This target is about retaining the quality of the overall resource in terms of woody species-richness (since this concept does not now appear in T1). Ancient and/or species-rich hedges will continue to be protected by the Hedgerows Regulations.|
|T4||Achieve favourable condition of 243,000 km (35%) of hedgerows by 2010 and 348,000 km (50%) by 2015. (Target does not include Northern Ireland.)|
|A new definition of favourable condition has been developed based on measuring 5 key attributes: dimensions; continuity; height of canopy base; width of undisturbed ground cover; and absence of recently introduced species (See below for more info). Agri-environment schemes should help towards the dimensions attribute by encouraging less severe trimming and towards the continuity aspect by giving grants for gapping up and laying. The cross-compliance requirements will help towards lessening ground disturbance. In 2006, we belive that only some 22% of the UK's hedgerows are in 'favourable condition'.|
|T5||Reverse the unfavourable condition of over-managed hedgerows across the UK by reducing the proportion of land managers who trim most of their hedges annually to 60% by 2010 (applicable to England only).|
|This target focuses attention on the contribution of land managers to the condition of hedges and can be assessed by querying the land managers. The target is intended to reduce the problem of over-frequent trimming of hedgerows. There are hedgerow management options in the new agri-environment schemes, particularly the Entry Level element which it is hoped will be widely taken up by farmers (e.g. in England, the aim is for 60% of land to be under ELS within 3 years). Reduced trimming frequency is a principal requirement of these options. Increased awareness and advice would also enhance the probability of achievement.|
|T6||Halt further decline in the condition of herbaceous hedgerow flora in Great Britain by 2010 (and improve their condition by 2015). (Target does not include Northern Ireland.)|
|This target refers to the basal flora of hedgerows which CS2000 showed is deteriorating, probably due to eutrophication. Cross-compliance and entry of field margins along hedgerows into agri-environment agreements should help to reduce this problem.|
|T7||Improve the condition of the hedgerow tree population by increasing numbers of young trees (1-4 years) in Great Britain to 40,000 by 2010 and 80,000 by 2015. (Target does not include Northern Ireland.)|
|Current work by the Tree Council is highlighting the importance of hedgerow trees and they are also running a Tree Tagging campaign. Agri-environment schemes will also be able to encourage tagging and new planting where appropriate. A review of incentives, particularly in Entry Level schemes may be needed to encourage retention of young trees.|
|T8||Achieve a net increase in the length of hedgerows of an average of 800 km per year in Great Britain to 2010 and 2015 (Target does include Northern Ireland.)|
|This target refers to all hedgerows consisting predominantly of at least one native species. Losses of hedgerows will be minimised by the Hedgerows Regulations 1997 and by cross-compliance rules and by encouraging good management so as to reduce losses through neglect. New planting will be encouraged primarily through grants under agri-environment schemes. The revised target will require an increase over the average length planted in recent years.|
To be in 'favourable condition' a hedgerow must meet all the thresholds listed below. Detailed methodology for measuring each attribute can be found in Chapter 4 of the Hedgerow Survey Handbook.
|Integrity/continuity||‹10% gaps||Estimate of total length of gaps present as a percentage of total hedgerow length or 30m section (as appropriate)|
|No gaps ›5m wide||Excludes access points|
|Base of canopy less than 0.5m above the ground for shrubby hedgerows||Estimate of 'average' height from base of the hedgerow to the lowest leafy growth|
|Size||Height at least 1m||Measure of 'average' height excluding the bank|
|Width at least 1m||Measure of 'average' width at widest point of the hedgerow canopy, shoot tip to shoot tip|
|Cross sectional area at least 3m2||Multiplication of the 'average' height and width for the hedgerow|
|Recently introduced species||Non-native herbaceous species (Max 10%)||Estimate of the cover of all non-native herbaceous species as a percentage of area of the 2m band extending from the centre line of the hedgerow|
|Non-native woody species (Max 10%)||Estimate cover of all non-native woody species as percentage of area of vertical face of hedgerow|
|Nutrient enrichment||Less than 20% combined cover of nettles, cleavers and docks||Estimate of percentage cover of nettles, cleavers and docks within a 2m wide band alongside a hedgerow|
|Undisturbed ground & perennial herbaceous vegetation cover||
Width of ndisturbed ground must be at least 2m
Width of perennial herbaceous vegetation must be at least 1m
Estimate average width of undisturbed (uncultivated) ground from the centre-line of the hedgerow
Estimate average width of perennial herbaceous vegetation between the centre-line of the hedgerow and the adjacent disturbed ground
There have been some significant successes. The first of these is the introduction of new 'entry level' schemes in England, Scotland and Wales which are aimed at the majority of farmers and which should help to protect and maintain hedgerows at a landscape scale. The introduction of new 'entry level' agri-environment schemes in England (Entry Level Environmental Stewardship), Wales (Tir Cynnal) and Scotland (Land Management Contract Menu Scheme), which are aimed at the majority of farmers, will significantly extend the protection and maintenance of hedgerows across a wider landscape and at a much larger scale than previous agri-environment schemes. There are also plans to introduce a similar scheme in Northern Ireland.
The second is the introduction of CAP cross-compliance measures which include measures to protect hedgerows. Both these measures encourage favourable management of hedges, especially favorable cutting practices. Compliance with a range of cross-compliance measures is a requirement of the Single Farm Payment, which was introduced in January 2005. These measures include the protection of hedgerows and should provide an additional mechanism to protect them from willful damage.
'Higher level' schemes, which includes options for hedge restoration and planting, also continue to operate in all countries.
The Steering Group for the UK Hedgerows Habitat Action Plan (HAP) held a conference for representatives of Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP) groups and other interested groups/individuals on 16 September 2009 in Birmingham Botanical gardens. The conference aimed to build on the success of a similar conference (BASH1) which was held in 2007.
Here you can download the full report with links to presentations (Word format - 194 KB).
Links to individual presentations folow below:
- Hedgerow HAP overview Presentation
- Countryside Survey 2007 - The state of GB Hedgerows Presentation
- Hedges day Presentation
- Agri-Environment Schemes - What has been achieved and what changes are planned Presentation
- The priority BAP species associated with hedgerows and implications for delivery of the hedgerows habitat action plan Presentation
- Local hedgerow surveys 2006 - 2008 Presentation
- FWAG Devon Hedgerow Surveys Presentation
- Hedgerow management & advice Presentation
Our aim is to continue to promoting awareness among the public and land managers of the importance of hedgerows and their associated features for wildlife, of the continuing loss of hedgerows, and of the need for management to maintain biodiversity.
The following communication products have been published;
All these items are available for free from Natural England Enquiries Service;
Tel 0845 6003078 (local rate)
Post Natural England, Northminster House, Peterborough, PE1 1UA
This website is also a key communications tool which has originated from the HAP group.