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This book provides a thorough account of the vegetation of species-rich grasslands in lowland Wales at the end of the 20th century. It sets out the findings of 18 years of research and survey of all significant stands of agriculturally unimproved lowland grasslands and their associated vegetation. Such wildlife-rich grasslands have been widely replaced by much less diverse rye-grass swards.
The survey covered 1070 sites of varying size and pioneered the use of the National Vegetation Classification for identifying and mapping vegetation at a regional scale. Over 150 different vegetation types were recorded, and this book characterises their forms and relationships, and extent and distribution within species-rich grasslands in lowland Wales.
The text includes detailed phytosociological floristic descriptions, extent data and distribution maps of lowland grassland plant communities and sub-communities, with critical comments on how each differs from similar plant communities and what vegetation types each is typically associated with in the field. Quadrat records are summarised in synoptic tables. Technical analyses of the data are presented giving insights into community distribution patterns and associations. New information on the physical and environmental characteristics of lowland grassland communities within Wales is assembled, and data on soil characteristics of Welsh lowland grasslands and associated flush communities are given in detail.
Also reviewed in this book are the rare and uncommon plant species associated with lowland grasslands in this part of western Britain.
The authors worked as part of the Terrestrial Science Group of the Countryside Council for Wales, the successor body to the Nature Conservancy Council for Wales, during the preparation of this book. Until his untimely death in 2007, David Stevens co-ordinated the Lowland Grassland Survey of Wales. Stuart Smith spent several years undertaking grassland field survey, and has since had a major role in compiling the survey findings. Tim Blackstock is head of the group and has overseen the grassland survey since its inception in 1987. Sam Bosanquet participated in the final phase of fieldwork on the grassland survey, and has played a key role in analysing the spatial dataset. Jane Stevens has organised the database with the survey findings and undertook vegetation data analysis.
Grasslands of Wales" provides an exemplary demonstration of how to make the expert knowledge of professional conservationists available to a wider audience. Soundly scientific, with fascinating detail, it is yet written in an engaging style and its wonderful photographs and many informative maps and diagrams colourfully enrich the text. It is certain to promote interest in and concern for a wealth of grasslands and their plants, which remain vulnerable to ignorance and neglect. Never forgetful of the particular value of the Welsh lowland landscape and its very special places, this work is of European significance. The book will be an invaluable companion for understanding and celebrating a vital part of our natural and cultural heritage."--John Rodwell, Cranfield University