Floodplain Meadows: Beauty and Utility - A Technical Handbook

Rothero, Emma; Lake, Sophie and Gowing, David (2016). Floodplain Meadows: Beauty and Utility - A Technical Handbook. Milton Keynes: Open University.

URL: http://www.floodplainmeadows.org.uk/floodplain-mea...

Abstract

Floodplain meadows are beautiful, ancient and fascinating places rich in wildlife and history. Throughout the spring and early summer, they are awash with wildflowers and waving grasses, humming with insects and the birds that depend on them. They provide a vibrant and beautiful spectacle that has now all but disappeared from the UK.

Floodplain meadows evolved over many hundreds of years through the need to store the summer grass crop as hay to sustain cattle, sheep and especially horses over the winter months. The system of allowing the vegetation to grow up in the spring, taking a hay crop in midsummer and then grazing the re-growth prevented taller, coarser species from becoming dominant and created the diverse flower-rich sward we see today. Once valued primarily for their key role in commercial agriculture, the few remaining species-rich floodplain meadows are now valued for a wider set of attributes.

Floodplain meadows:

* generate a sustainable and prized hay crop;

* provide an important nectar source for pollinating insects such as bumblebees and hoverflies;

* support rare plant communities and are vital sources of seed for the restoration of meadows;

* provide flood-storage areas, trap sediment and store carbon, and will be increasingly valued for these functions as the climate changes; and provide a link with the past, a living reminder of the traditional, rural landscapes and the ways of life that created them.

A more detailed discussion of the value and history of floodplain meadows is found in Chapter 3. More information on the distribution and conservation of floodplain meadows in the UK can be found in Chapter 4.

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