Grassland survey on Lower Sharpham Farm

As summer moved across the country, it was time to conduct the grassland survey on the meadows of Lower Sharpham Farm.

In 2011, there was a first study which aimed to record the different plant species which could be found in the fields. Ten quadrats of 1 sqm were investigated in every field to compile a list with all the detected plant species, also in reference to the use of the fields. Five years ago, Ambios started to farm some meadows less intensively. One year ago some of the cattle were replaced by the Belted Galloways a breed that are better for grazing and extensive farming.

A few weeks ago it was our turn to do the grassland survey again to find out in what way the species richness has changed. Because of this, the trainees of Lower Sharpham Farm got a two-day course in plant identification. In the beginning it was quite hard to see the little differences between the plants and to remember the names. On the second day it still seemed impossible to recognise any plants at all.

After a one-week-long break we went into the field again to finally conduct the survey and this time it worked a lot better than the week before. We revised the plants and their names before we started working on the quadrats in groups. This was a good approach, because we were able to identify the plants independently as well as to learn from each other’s knowledge. The reliability of the gathered data could be ensured by checking the quadrats with Mike, our instructor. In the end, probably all of us are now able to identify at least ten plant species on the meadows of Lower Sharpham Farm.

Meadow buttercup

Additionally, a structural measurement of the grass of some meadows was conducted. So, on a line of twenty-meter length every twenty centimetres the maximum height as well as the average height of the grass was measured. The average height means the height at which the grass is very dense. This could be measured by letting a disc fall along a ruler and noting where it is stopped by the grass.

Measuring the grassland structure

Having gathered all the data, they must be edited to be comparable. The results will be summarised in graphs and maps showing the structure of the grassland and changes in the species richness.

Blog post by Magdalena Koschmieder