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Hedgerow typology and condition analysis to inform greenway design in rural landscapes

Journal of Environmental Management

Abstract

Over the past decades, Western European hedgerows have been declining as a result of land use change. Disused infrastructure corridors such as railways and tramways can host a range of existing and returning semi-natural habitats, including extensive hedgerow networks. However, long term corridor abandonment can result in network deterioration to gappy hedgerows, lines of trees and eventually individual scrub features. The loss of hedgerows results in the loss of many ecosystem services, habitat for species and landscape connectivity. This highlights an increasing need to find innovative solutions to recognise and appropriately maintain these hedgerow networks. European Greenways typically 'upcycle' disused infrastructure transport corridors for multiuse, non-motorised recreational public infrastructure. The potential for European greenways to maintain and restore hedgerows is of interest as a novel planning mechanism for enhancing green infrastructure in general. The aim of this study is to inform Greenway design and management through the evaluation of hedgerow significance (historical, ecological and landscape), condition and composition within a rural European Greenway landscape context. 81 hedgerows were sampled along a 70 km proposed Greenway route traversing a range of extensive and intensive landscapes. Hedgerows were surveyed using a rapid field score sheet which enabled significance and condition scoring. A hedgerow typology was subsequently developed based on species composition assemblages. Hedgerows were found to be highly ecologically significant and species rich throughout the route. On-going land use intensification was evident as significant sections of the former railway corridor were subsumed into intensive agriculture and afforestation. Management recommendations need to be adapted to the particular hedgerow group and surrounding landscape context, and take into account the varied requirements of different taxonomic groups. The study findings show Greenways have the potential to act as multifunctional green infrastructure (accomplishing both ecological and recreational objectives) through informed design to reinforce their nature conservation role and recognising hedgerows as integral landscape feature of Greenway corridor, at local level and as part of a wider European network.

Author(s): Carlier, J; Moran, J

Journal: Journal of Environmental Management

Year: 2019

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