Habitat Action Plan: Urban Grassland

By | August 7, 2008

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1. Current Status
1.1 National

1.1.1 This habitat covers unimproved, semi-improved and improved grasslands occurring in urban and urban fringe areas. Soil types typically vary between a moist substrate with a pH between 5.0 and 6.5, a sandy, base-poor substrate or one which is less distinctive, due to former industrial
processes or on-going urban greenspace management.

1.1.2 Relevant habitats include unimproved permanent neutral or acidic urban common, roadside verges, which are either unimproved, orĀ  semi-improved (towards the urban fringe where there is more likelihood of the land being previously in agricultural use) or semi-permanent former-industrial sites currently free from management.

1.1.3 The vast majority of such sites are, to varying extents, naturally seeded and in the early stages of colonisation. Species composition varies greatly with soil-type, pH, former land-use, disturbance, location and the presence, level and type of management all influencing community structure and diversity. Variants on this habitat occur within all lowland urban conurbations on former industrial sites, unmanaged greenspace and post-agricultural sites on the urban fringe.

1.1.4 It is impossible to assess the extent of these habitats, mainly due to the lack of a clear definition but also because of their fragmentation. However, they are known to be widespread in urban areas and to provide important wildlife habitats in the urban context.

1.2 Local
1.2.1 The extent of these habitats is not known but information is being collated.

1.2.2 The wildlife value of these sites depends to a large extent upon their management regime. At one end of the scale are the closely mown amenity
grasslands of formal urban parks, which often provide little more than a feeding site for some bird species but where relaxation of management
allows the development of areas of more natural plant communities. At the other end are ex-industrial or other sites that have escaped built
development, where colonisation by vegetation has been essentially natural and management is usually absent. In between are less formal urban
green spaces where mowing is less intensive, allowing greater sward height to develop and natural processes of colonisation to take place.

1.2.3 Larger examples of these approximate categories include Court Hey and Mill Brook Parks in Knowsley; Kraft Meadows in Kirkby, the Burgy Banks in St Helens and Cressington Heath in Liverpool; the Rimrose Valley in Sefton, Childwall Fields and parts of Ottterspool in Liverpool, Thatto Heath Meadow in St Helens and Stadt Moers Country Park in Knowsley.