Habitat Action Plan: Field Boundaries

By | August 7, 2008

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Field Boundaries contain a large proportion of the biodiversity in arable landscapes.
For the purposes of this plan, the term ‘field boundaries’ refers to boundary structures
such as hedgerows, hedgebanks, drains and ditches. It also includes field margins and
buffer strips, lying between the crop and the field boundary, along with infield
structures such as beetle banks and conservation headlands.

Hedgerows are an intrinsic part of the farmed landscape and provide shelter and food
for many species of farmland birds, insects and mammals and also provide important
corridors for wildlife movement across the farmed landscape.

The particular mix of shrub and tree species in a hedgerow, which reflects both the
age of the hedgerow and local management customs, contributes to local landscape
character distinctiveness.

Buffer strips have a wide range of potential benefits, such as creating new habitat for
small mammals, invertebrates and birds; protecting habitats from sprays, fertiliser and
cultivation, protecting archaeological or historic features from damage by mechanical
operations; stabilising banks, protecting water courses and reducing diffuse pollution.
Ditches can also provide beneficial wildlife habitat through the provision of
undisturbed varied bank side and aquatic vegetation.

Beetle banks are tussocky grass ridges, generally about 2m wide that run from one
side of a field to the other whilst still allowing the field to be farmed. They provide
habitat for ground nesting birds, small mammals and insects. If carefully placed
across slopes they can also help reduce run-off and erosion.

Conservation headlands are areas of cereal crops where careful use of sprays allows
broadleaved weeds and their associated insects to develop. This provides feeding
habitat for farmland birds and rare arable plant communities also benefit.