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How grassland ecosystems function

High quality (i.e. high species diversity) wildflower grasslands exist naturally on low nutrient soils, where management ensures that the soil nutrients do not allow more competitive plants such as nettles and grasses to dominate. The exact nature of these grasslands depends on a number of factors, including soil type and water content. In NPT, we have a number of different grassland habitats, including neutral grassland, marshy grassland and acid grassland.

Wildflower grasslands require management, traditionally through cutting or grazing, to prevent them from becoming rank (nutrient enriched) and eventually succeeding to woodland.

In order to ensure that a wildflower grassland has high species diversity, the arisings (cut material) need to be removed following cutting to keep the soil nutrients low and the grassland needs to be left to flower for the entire flowering season until seeding is completed, usually between April and August. The arisings can be piled into compost heaps to create habitat for species such as grass snakes, made into hay or taken away for green waste recycling.