Calcareous grassland is one of the most species rich and diverse habitats in Europe. However, following post 1950s agricultural intensification they have faced decline and degradation, with losses of up to 75% in some places. Today there are an estimated 595000 ha of calcareous grassland in the Natura 2000 network, with 35500 ha occurring in Great Britain.
In recent years conservation organisations have altered grazing practices in an attempt to conserve the characteristic vegetation of these internationally important habitats. However, there has been little consideration of the effects of these contrasting grazing practices on invertebrate communities or their relationship with plants.
This project examined the impacts of contrasting grazing practices on spiders, carabid beetles and plants in upland calcareous grasslands. Many of the results of this project provided the first evidence of effects of contrasting grazing management in upland calcareous grassland. This evidence will form the basis of the first management recommendations for upland calcareous grasslands to include invertebrates, and not plants, as the main focus. The project was funded by Edge Hill University and conducted by researchers at the same institution between 2013 and 2017.
The initial project idea was developed following discussion with Natural England site managers who highlighted a knowledge gap on the impacts of commonly used management practices. Throughout the project a series of meetings were held between the authors and practitioners from a range of organisations involved in upland calcareous grassland management (including: Natural England, The National Trust, The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority) to ensure research was as relevant and as reflective to practice as possible. This resulted in the following management document:‘Managing Biodiversity in upland calcareous grassland landscapes: A case study of spiders and ground beetles’ as well as three scientific publications