Dramatic declines in wildlife-rich grasslands

The Wildlife Trusts, Plantlife and others, have highlighted the tragic loss of beautiful meadows and pastures on many occasions.

We are all playing our part in working with landowners to restore grasslands for wildlife across the country.  Our evidence shows that the decline is continuing apace in the twenty-first century, and because the remaining habitat resource is so small, every single site that is lost or damaged now is a real tragedy for the wildlife our grasslands support, and a real loss for our future too.  

We have information showing dramatic declines in many areas of the country, for example:

South East

The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust reported that the majority of 21 grassland Local Wildlife Sites (covering c103ha) de-selected since 2005 had lost their wildlife interest due to lack of management, which had also led to the value of a further seven sites declining significantly.

North West

In Cumbria, re-surveys of upland hay meadow Local Wildlife Sites between 2008-2011 led to the de-selection of 35 (27%) out of a total of 128 sites.

At 15 of the sites the traditional hay meadows previously present had completely disappeared.  In the Lake District National Park re-surveys of 223.47 hectares of hay meadow wildlife sites between the late 1970s and early 2000s led to a staggering 183.26 hectares (82%) being de-selected as Local Wildlife Sites.

This is not a new problem – by 1980 97% of all traditionally managed lowland meadows had gone and losses to other semi-natural grasslands were almost as great.

East Midlands

In Lincolnshire, half of the grassland Local Wildlife Sites are roadside verges: despite strong support from the Highways Authorities, there is little budget for management that will ensure their future.

In Nottinghamshire, out of 392 Local Wildlife Sites containing neutral grassland 99 (25%) have been de-selected since 2005.

East of England

Lack of any management is a significant cause of grassland decline in some areas. A 2008 report by Norfolk Wildlife Trust concluded that 69% of a sample of 60 grassland Local Wildlife Sites visited in 2005-2008 were in poor or declining condition. The main problems were inappropriate management and no management, with lack of resources for management a key issue.

West Midlands

Areas of grassland that had been in a 20-year Environmentally Sensitive Area scheme in the Clun uplands in south Shropshire were ploughed in 2014 - a change to the land that is bad news for breeding curlew and could put species like the rare small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly at risk.

In Worcestershire, a county renowned for its classic traditional lowland hay meadows, it's estimated that 48 sites (24%), comprising around 240 hectares, out of a total of 200 grassland Local Wildlife Sites have either been lost, damaged or reduced to sub-optimal condition since 2005.

South West 

A recent report on Devon’s State of Nature concluded that only 27% of remaining Culm grasslands in Devon are in good condition.