Long-term changes in chalk grassland

Calcareous grasslands support a remarkable diversity of plant species but, despite being widely recognised for their conservation importance, many have suffered from a lack of management. This has meant that even some of our most famous sites have been left to deteriorate and are now in poor condition. Peter Hawes, Richard Pywell and Lucy Ridding outline the results of a long-term study of plant communities on Wiltshire’s chalk grassland, and argue that grazing practices need to change if we are to properly preserve these habitats.

There is a greater variety of plants on chalk and limestone soils than on any other, and their grasslands depend on grazing management for survival and diversity. Such grassland is of vital conservation value; as so much was lost during the 20th century, what remains should be managed with proper insight.

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