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Classification, composition, richness and diversity of British hedgerows

Applied Vegetation Science

Abstract

A floristic classification of British hedgerows is constructed. Hedges (the woody, structural element) and hedge-bottoms (the mainly herbaceous ground flora) were analysed separately because different natural and management processes were expected to affect them. The 11 hedge classes varied in size from five to over 500 plots. Over two-thirds of all hedges were dominated by Crataegus spp. or Prunus spinosa. Hedge-bottoms were more evenly grouped into four classes whose species composition could be related to broad land use/habitat types: intensive arable, rotational/mixed farming, managed grasslands, and woodland. The woodland class was only 12% of the total, and species characteristic of true woodland habitats were uncommon even within that class, so our data do not support the hypothesis of hedgerows acting as 'woodland corridors' for plants. Richness/diversity scores differed markedly between different hedge and hedge-bottorn classes. The richest hedgerows, both in species and inferred habitats, were among the rarer types, while the most common classes (both hedge and hedge-bottorn) were consistently the poorest. Comparison of species composition and diversity in hedges and hedge-bottoms, and associations between them, all supported the hypothesis that the relative importance of historical, management and ecological effects differed between the two parts of the hedgerow; hedges and hedge-bottoms should be treated ecologically as largely independent units. The classifications and richness/diversity scores enable easy preliminary assessment of the conservation value of a hedgerow. They also enable individual hedgerows to be placed in a wider (national) context.

Author(s): French, DD; Cummins, RP

Journal: Applied Vegetation Science

Year: 2001

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