Habitat Action Plan: Lowland Acid Grassland

By | August 7, 2008

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1 Current status
1.1 National
Lowland acid grassland is usually found on nutrient-poor, generally free-draining
soils that have pH ranging from 4 to 5.5 and overlying acid rock or sands and gravels.
Lowland acid grassland is defined as both enclosed and unenclosed acid grassland
below 300metres. It can often be found as an integral part of lowland heath
landscapes, parklands and locally on coastal cliffs and shingle. It is normally managed
as pasture.
The NVC communities usually present include U1 Sheep’s Fescue-Common Bent-
Sheep’s sorrel; U2 Wavy Hair-grass; U3 Bristle Bent; U4 Sheep’s Fescue-Common
Bent-Heath Bedstraw. Characteristic plants include Heath Bedstraw; Sheep’s Fescue;
Common Bent; Sheep’s Sorrel; Sand Sedge; Wavy Hair-grass; Bristle Bent and
Tormentil.
Acid grasslands can have a high cover of bryophytes and parched acid grassland can
be rich in lichens. These grasslands are very variable in terms of species-richness and
can be relatively species-poor. Parched acid grasslands contain a significant number
of rare and scarce plants, many of which are annual. These include Mossy Stonecrop
and Smooth Rupturewort.
The birds of lowland acid grassland are similar to those of other lowland dry
grasslands and include Woodlark, Nightjar and Lapwing. Many invertebrates are
specialist species only found in lowland acid grasslands, particularly ground-dwelling
and burrowing species such as solitary bees and wasps.
Acid grassland has undergone a decline in the 20th century although there are no
figures available on rates of loss. The decline is mostly due to agricultural
intensification. Those areas of acid grassland remote from the uplands are of primary
conservation focus and are of restricted occurrence. It is estimated that there are less
than 30,000ha remaining in the UK.

1.2 Local
Lowland acid grassland is found on soils overlying sandstone rock, peats and sands in
North Merseyside, including ex-industrial sites.
About 100ha of acid grassland is present in North Merseyside, of which 88ha are
found on the Sefton Coast, where it occurs on the more inland areas where leaching
has reduced calcium and nutrient levels; 80% of this is on golf courses. No
significant recent losses are known. Since 2000 3ha have been created in St. Helens
and a further 3ha restored from scrub at Freshfield Dune Heath. The habitat is found
in all four districts, sometimes in association with heathland. Some of the best
examples can be found in St Helens, at Billinge Beacon, and in Sefton, on road verges
in Ainsdale and in the Rimrose Valley.
Where acid grassland is managed it tends to be used as pasture or is cut by machine
for a variety of purposes, e.g. road verges.