Open University (OU) research into the restoration of UK’s floodplain meadows has just received £132,000 from the John Ellerman Foundation.
The grant, which will run up to 2023, will make it possible to continue essential support for restoring floodplain meadows through the provision of technical advice, sharing of experience, and talking to Government.
Floodplain meadows are unique, biodiverse habitats that were once at the heart of almost all rural communities. However, they are now rare; a large proportion of floodplain meadows were lost due to land-use changes in the 20th century, meaning that the remaining meadows are a precious resource that need protecting.
Britain lost 97% of its flower-rich meadows during the last century. The meadows found on floodplains were particularly hard hit by activities such as agricultural intensification and urban and industrial development.
Alongside benefits such as helping to reduce flooding and to store carbon, floodplain meadows are home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. They are popular, beautiful places to walk and explore nature. One floodplain meadow, National Nature Reserve in Wiltshire, receives up to 20,000 visitors per year. Although designated a priority habitat (under Annex 1 of the EU Habitats Directive) the remaining meadows are still at risk.
Since 2007, the Floodplains Meadows Partnership (a group hosted by The Open University) have monitored and offered management advice to sites across the UK. Working with conservation practitioners, landowners, community groups and policy makers, the Partnership has used its expertise in floodplain-meadow ecology to promote the maintenance and restoration of sites.
This new grant will facilitate floodplain-meadow restoration projects by visiting restoration sites at all stages: on-going, recently started and prospective. At all these sites the team will collect data, provide advice and liaise with land managers. The area of floodplain meadows in the UK under restoration is a very substantial contribution to the remaining resource.
As well as directly assisting site managers, the grant will be used to increase the Partnership’s national impact and its ability to influence policy. The team aims to ensure that the needs of floodplain meadows are incorporated into the new Government environmental land management scheme (ELMS).
“Ultimately, our goal is to see floodplains better managed and restored as places that give us many different benefits,” said Emma Rothero, Floodplain Meadows Partnership Manager. “It is very timely, with the new ELMS just being launched for consultation. We are very keen to see a floodplain specific clause in a new scheme that means the wider benefits of floodplain meadows are specifically recognised.”
David Gowing, Professor of Botany at the OU said:
“As Director of the Floodplain Meadows Partnership, I am extremely grateful to the John Ellerman Foundation for this philanthropic grant. The timing of this award is particularly important because the future of these priceless meadows is uncertain in the face of climate change and given the added uncertainty of the UK’s agri-environmental policy post Brexit.”
To celebrate the importance and beauty of the UK’s floodplain meadows, The Open University and Floodplain Meadows Partnership are inviting entries for artworks based on a visit to the meadows.