Control of meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria through a change of management from grazing to mowing at an English floodplain meadow.
Floodplain meadow grassland is a diverse habitat which has become increasingly rare throughout Europe. Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria, is a characteristic species of its plant community, however it can become overly dominant in the sward resulting in detrimental effects on the community as a whole. High abundance can reduce both the diversity of the sward, by shading out low growing species, and the quality of the hay crop. An eight-year management trial (2011-2019) was undertaken at Fancott Woods and Meadows SSSI by the BCN Wildlife Trust and the Floodplain Meadows Partnership, to test whether it was possible to reduce the dominance of meadowsweet through an annual hay cut with aftermath grazing instead of grazing management only, across three blocks of experimental treatments. A secondary aim of the trial was to investigate whether a change in management could also increase the plant-species diversity. Three plots were cut in June and then aftermath grazed, compared to three control plots that were only grazed from July onwards. The study found that cover of meadowsweet decreased from 55% to 6% under the annual cut and aftermath grazing treatment compared to a decrease from 58% to 35% in the control (grazed only) areas. This was accompanied by an increase in plant-species diversity in the cut areas compared to control plots. The study concluded that annual cutting can be used to control coarse and dominant meadowsweet effectively, and that cutting followed by aftermath grazing in a floodplain meadow delivers greater botanical diversity compared to grazing alone.