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Effects of sheep stocking on the plant community and agricultural characteristics of upland Anthoxanthum odoratum-Geranium sylvaticum meadow in northern England

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Roger Smith, Dr Robert Shiel, Dr Janet Simkin

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Abstract

© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. In the UK, upland hay meadows (Anthoxanthum odoratum-Geranium sylvaticum grassland) with high plant biodiversity are rare and confined to submontane areas of northern England. We report results from a 5-year experiment to test suggestions that recent biodiversity declines were attributable to increased sheep-stocking density and a longer spring stocking period, thus delaying the shut up date for the growth of the hay crop. Longer stocking periods and higher stocking densities decreased the forage mass at 8 July, but they increased herbage N content and digestibility, reduced plant species diversity and reduced populations and seed production of Rhinanthus minor. Compared with unstocked swards, the similarity of the vegetation to Anthoxanthum odoratum-Geranium sylvaticum grassland was reduced by 16·9% when stocking with sheep continued until 27 May each year, and by 8·3% when sward heights were maintained at 3 cm compared with 5 cm. Increased mean sward height and height of R. minor were positively correlated with accumulated temperatures. Results support suggestions that recent reductions in the nature value of these grasslands might be a consequence of high stocking densities persisting until later in the spring, carried out during a 1-year period with warmer temperatures.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Smith RS, Shiel RS, Millward D, Simkin JM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Grass and Forage Science

Year: 2017

Volume: 72

Issue: 3

Pages: 502-515

Print publication date: 01/09/2017

Online publication date: 05/09/2016

Acceptance date: 14/07/2016

ISSN (print): 0142-5242

ISSN (electronic): 1365-2494

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Ltd

URL: https://doi.org/10.1111/gfs.12251

DOI: 10.1111/gfs.12251


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