Many of the important wildlife habitats in Britain are survivors from a traditional pastoral landscape. Downland, heathland, wood-pasture and grazing marsh are all full of specialised wild animals and plants which depend upon vegetation kept open by grazing. Surviving grazing habitats which have not been destroyed by modern agriculture, building or roads are often unmanaged and covered in rank vegetation and scrub--the specialist organisms are disappearing under widespread species which can survive anywhere. Rosebay and coltsfoot are no substitute for orchids and cowslips!
Heathland is a rare habitat on a world scale, and Britain has a large proportion of the world's heathland. Dorset and the New Forest are the most important areas in Britain for lowland heathland--so we like to think that our grazing on heathland is making an international contribution to wildlife conservation.
Photo: marsh gentian Gentiana pneumonanthe: one of many wild plants which need grazing.
More on conservation grazing
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