By using species’ ecological characteristics as a basis for the classification, the condition of vegetation can be established and the prevailing environment predicted.From this information, a realistic strategy for restoration can then be determined.This work was funded by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) under project BD5301.We are grateful to Richard Brand-Hardy (Defra), Emily Ledder (Natural England), Heather Robertson, Rob Wolton and Val Brown for their support and assistance and to Shaun Astbury for help with data handling.
The root word of 'hedge' is much older: it appears in the Old English language, in German (Hecke), and Dutch (haag) to mean 'enclosure', as in the name of the Dutch city The Hague, or more formally 's Gravenhage, meaning The Count's hedge.
Hedgerows are valuable habitats for biodiversity in farmed landscapes.
The herbaceous vegetation at the hedge base is an important component of this habitat but its condition in Britain has deteriorated due to a combination of nutrient and pesticide contamination, and inappropriate management or neglect.
Cluster analysis of vegetation plots, based on attributes of the species present, produced thirteen vegetation types in six broad groups.
These were differentiated by the association of the component species with woodland, grassland or arable habitats and by gradients of soil nutrient status and p H, light availability, disturbance and grazing tolerance.
Vegetation classifications based on species’ functional characteristics can have more general application that those based on species identity.