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Study Show Messy Parts of Farm Provide Vital Habitat

29 May 2013

UK – Overgrown corners in fields and farm yards are more important to wildlife than previously thought, according to research carried out on a Somerset farm.

The team, made of academics from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the Bristol and Hull University studied the complex animal/plant interface on the organic holding.

They constructed an elaborate terrestrial food-web, to envisage what would happen to the wildlife when the habitats were lost.

Project Leader, Professor Jane Memmott from the University of Bristol said: “"Essentially, in unkempt patches of the countryside there are a wide range of plants that many would regard as weeds, which are an important food source for many animals. There certainly seems to be a case for 'doing nothing' in these habitats. Farmers may even gain by having these scruffy areas because they support so many beneficial animals, such as bees."

Areas of farmland often called ‘scruffy’; disused yards, field corners with rusting machinery and other wasteland offers animals and insects with a vital habitat.

Dr Michael Pocock from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology said that this is because they are relatively rare over the farm, whereas there are often plenty of trees and hedgerows.

“We found that the important food plants for many animals are found in multiple habitats on the farm boosting farmland wildlife resilience,” said Dr Pocock.

“In other words, if a farmer removes mature hedgerows and the plants this habitat contains, most animals could (in theory) survive because the plants are found in other parts of the farm. Our new analytical approach allows us to test which habitats are disproportionately most important and 'rough ground' - like the unkempt field corners - are most important of all."


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