The Impacts of Contrasting Grazing Management on Biodiversity in Upland Calcareous Grasslands


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Calcareous grassland, considered among the most species rich and diverse habitats in Europe, underwent wide scale loss and degradation following post 1950s agricultural intensification. Consequently, they are the focus of conservation efforts and are protected in national and international legislation (e.g. EU Habitats Directive).

As elsewhere in Europe, a major cause of upland calcareous grassland loss and degradation in Britain was intensive grazing, typically with sheep. In recent years, conservation organisations have altered grazing practices in an attempt to prevent further loss and degradation by focussing management on conserving characteristic calcareous grassland vegetation. However, the impact of the contrasting grazing regimes used in this internationally important habitat on invertebrates is unknown.

This study is the first to investigate the impacts of a range of established grazing regimes (low intensity sheep grazing, low intensity cattle grazing, high intensity sheep grazing and no grazing) on aspects of plant diversity and structural complexity, carabid beetle diversity, and spider diversity in upland calcareous grasslands. It also provides the first evidence based management recommendations for UK upland calcareous grasslands which incorporate both plants and invertebrates. In addition, this study is also the first to assess
the biodiversity value of acid grassland and limestone heath habitat patches that occur as part of the calcareous grassland matrix and are not targeted by conservation management, by examining the spider fauna in each habitat in relation to calcareous grassland. Further evidence based recommendations for the management of these non-target habitats are made for the first time
Date of Award28 Jun 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorANNE OXBROUGH (Director of Studies) & MICHAEL POWELL (Supervisor)


  • grazing
  • Carabid beetle
  • spider
  • management
  • sheep
  • cattle
  • ungrazed

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