In this review, we discuss the role of hedgerow structure and condition in determining the value of hedgerow habitat for biodiversity conservation within an agricultural context, to inform and evaluate hedgerow management decisions and policy. Through a systematic literature review, narrative synthesis and vote counting, key structural condition indicators were identified for a range of conservation priority taxa. Abundance, survival or fecundity of ground vegetation, birds, mammals and invertebrates were affected by height, width, woody biomass, foliar quality and quantity, and gappiness of hedgerows. Although general patterns may not occur, a response to a particular structural feature can vary both within and between taxonomic groups, many responses are synergistic and interdependent. In conclusion, the definition of a “good quality” hedgerow for biodiversity conservation should be expanded to include all those key structural features which are important across taxa. Furthermore, the importance of heterogeneity in hedgerow structural condition is highlighted, where no fixed set of hedgerow characteristics were found to benefit all taxa. If uniform hedgerow management is overprescribed, as has been the tendency with some agri-environment schemes, some species (including those of conservation concern) are likely to be adversely affected by a loss of suitable habitat or resource decline.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Apr 1, 2018
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