Aqualate Mere SSSI - Thistleyfields Pastures (035)
Staff member responsible: PAUL CANDLIN
Unit Id: 1028642
Unit area (ha): 6.0955
Unit Status: Live Gridref: SJ 771 209
Main habitat: NEUTRAL GRASSLAND - Lowland
Condition (click for history): Favourable Assessed by: HOLLAND, (TOM)
Last assessed: 26/06/2014 Last field visit: 26/06/2014
ISA Survey: View Surveys
Date of site check: Last CSM assessment: 26/06/2014
Condition assessment comment:

Interest features –

  1. Assemblages of breeding birds - Lowland open waters and their margins

Comments as for unit 33.

Favourable

  1. Assemblages of breeding birds - Lowland damp grasslands

Comments as for unit 33.

Favourable

  1. Variety of breeding bird species

As comments for unit 32 –

Favourable

  1. M23 - Juncus effusus / acutiflorus - Galium palustre rush pasture

The unit’s vegetation is not one homogenous block of M23. It is more a mosaic of M22, M25, M23, S5, S7 and drier semi-improved communities (MG6, MG9 and MG10) at the top of the field. The topography and drainage seem variable and might give rise to the vegetation’s heterogeneity. Two artificial looking ridges across the centre of the field and the semi-improved communities on the drier ground suggest the heterogeneity might be the result of artificial agricultural improvements rather than because natural variability.

All of the target communities contain the required frequency and diversity of positive indicator species; the required ratio of good to bad rushes; and a low cover of species indicative of agricultural improvement.

The tables below list the species recorded in the various vegetation communities and the MATCH outputs showing their similarity coefficients to NVC communities. The annotated aerial photo attempts to show the extent and location of the various communities.

The semi-improved areas at the top of the field are relatively species-poor and might need to be considered as site fabric within the FCTs (with an aim towards restoration of a mire community if the field is made wetter or MG5 if it stays as now).

Favourable

Management suggestions

  • The sward was fairly thick and appeared to be ungrazed at the time of my visit. I think I was told that the field was grazed during the winter. No grazing during the summer must allow everything to flower and set seed very nicely. Are the rushes cut as per unit 33 and 34? If not, consider the merits of introducing that regime to this unit.
  • As per unit 33/34, consider the pros and cons of filling in ditches or raising water levels within this unit. However, the plant communities within this field (specifically the M22) are of higher value than those in units 33/34, which might mean the costs or risks of re-wetting are higher and end up outweighing the benefits. An eco-hydrological characterisation or other hydrological investigation would be needed as part of such an assessment.
  • This is now the largest area of M22 on the SSSI. With unit 50 subject to repeated summer flooding and its M22/M24 more less destroyed as a result, consider introducing the Cirsium dissectum (one of the SSSI’s rarer plant species) that used to be contained within that unit, to the M22 in unit 35.
  • The M25 at the bottom of the unit 35 contains marsh violet – are their historic or recent records for small pearl-bordered fritillary at this site? It’s only two or three miles to Doley Common, where there was a strong colony until recently.
Number of adverse condition reasons: 0
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