Aqualate Mere SSSI - Western Pastures (036)
Staff member responsible: PAUL CANDLIN
Unit Id: 1028643
Unit area (ha): 10.1841
Unit Status: Live Gridref: SJ 764 210
Main habitat: NEUTRAL GRASSLAND - Lowland
Condition (click for history): Unfavourable - Recovering Assessed by: HOLLAND, (TOM)
Last assessed: 02/07/2014 Last field visit: 02/07/2014
ISA Survey: View Surveys
Date of site check: 19/09/2017 Last CSM assessment: 02/07/2014
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 wet grassland vegetation in this unit fails on the

  • The frequency of positive indicator species.

According to my estimates one positive indicator (Lotus pedunculatus) is frequent and five are occasional (Filipendula ulmaria, Ranunculus flammula, Centaurea nigra, Equisetum palustre, Carex disticha). The target is two frequent and three occasional, so it is very close to being favourable.

The ratio (25%:25%) of good rush to bad rushes was a marginal pass as was the cover of species indicative of agricultural improvement (18% overall with 10% cover of Holcus lanatus and 5% cover of ranunculus repens).

The sward structure was heterogenous. Near to the access points it was grazed fairly hard and open. Further away rushes were dominant and very thick, particularly at the western end of the unit.

The presence of Carex disticha and Equisetum palustre suggest that parts of the vegetation has affinities to M22. I didn’t find any Juncus subnodulosus but it wouldn’t surprise me if a closer look found it or some vegetation with similarities to M22.

Unfavourable

Management suggestions

  • Away from gates and other access points the sward was very thick and appeared to have been left ungrazed for a few years (cf. unit 35 which appears to get grazed in the winter). There are probably some positives to such neglect, but it’s probably not helping the unit to hit its published targets. 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. An eco-hydrological characterisation or other hydrological investigation would be needed as part of such an assessment. A proper vegetation survey to locate and map areas of M22 or other base-rich vegetation would also be needed.
  • The meander cut-off within the unit is an interesting thing. As part of the eco-hydrological characterisation consider how best to manage it - e.g. whether to re-connect it to the outflow or keep it separate (e.g. if it has acquired special invertebrate communities).

Number of adverse condition reasons: 0
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