Public asked to help fill gap in hedgerow knowledge

Public asked to help fill gap in hedgerow knowledge
Credit: Shutterstock.com/ ShaunWilkinson

Wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is launching a new national survey encouraging the UK to health-check the nation’s hedgerows in an attempt to safeguard the future of this important habitat.

The Great British Hedgerow Survey offers instant feedback about the health of each hedge, as well as tailored advice on what type of management will ensure it thrives in the future.

The results also provides conservationists with vital data helping build a national picture of the health of Britain’s hedges.

The survey attracted the attention of BBC Countryfile, and earlier this month presenter Helen Skelton joined PTES’ Key Habitats Project Officer Megan Gimber and Dormouse & Training Officer Ian White in Warwickshire, to find out why hedgerows are in need of more wide-scale management. They explained what the new survey involves and why PTES is calling for people to take part.

Who can take part?

The survey is aimed at landowners, farmers, wildlife groups and anyone interested in healthy hedgerows, who are encouraged to complete hedgerow health-checks online.

Landowners and farmers already assess the health of their hedges to guide their ongoing management, but by taking part in the Great British Hedgerow Survey, they will receive detailed and tailored management advice which will introduce the idea of managing hedgerows in a cycle.

For wildlife groups and individuals, the website also provides a handy place to store and display the hedgerow data they collect. Taking part will contribute valuable information to a national dataset that will inform conservation decisions in the future.

Declining hedgerows

Historically we’ve lost about half our hedgerows since WWII. Although the rates of direct hedge removal have been reduced, we are still seeing the loss of hedgerows simply through the way they are managed.

Megan Gimber, Key Habitats Project Officer at PTES, says: “With 70% of UK land being agricultural, hedgerows offer the safest route for wildlife to travel across farmland. Sadly, many hedgerows are becoming gappy, which fragments this amazing network, and without more sensitive management, many hedgerows are at risk of being lost altogether.

“This is problematic, especially when we’re seeing a fall in numbers of the animals that depend on them, such as hedgehogs, bats, hazel dormice and song thrush.”

She adds: “The importance of well-connected, healthy hedgerows can’t be overstated, so it’s really important to protect them. Ultimately a well-connected network of hedges will help our native wildlife to survive and thrive.

“We hope lots of people will be inspired to health-check their hedgerows and find out how they can best look after them both for wildlife and for healthy agricultural landscapes.”