Friday, October 24, 2008
Hedgerow Loss in the U.K. and the U.S.
Hedge laying in the UK.
During a single 10-year period (1984-1993), more than one-third of all hedgerows in the United Kingdom were lost -- a whopping 121,875 miles of destruction (see data table here) . At least another 96,000 miles of hedgerow were lost in England from 1945 to 1984.
British hedgerows are fabulously vibrant ecosystems supporting myriad plant and insect species in dense thickets.
An analysis of hedgerows has found a close correlation between the age of a hedgerow and its plant diversity, with some British hedgerows estimated to be as much as 700 years old.
As hedgerows have vanished, so too have seeds and insects that once sprang from these hedgerows. One result is a very rapid decline in sparrow populations in the UK.
Why are the hedgerows disappearing so rapidly? Much of the blame lies with agricultural policy and the desire to boost agricultural outputs by plowing edge-to-edge with ever-larger farm machinery.
In addition, as more and more people have moved into the countryside to live on mini-estates, hedgerows have fallen to new housing developments and road widening.
Though a 1997 law was enacted in the U.K. to try to slow hedgerow destruction, the bulldozers continue to do their work there as they do here.
Last week I was driving a section of Maryland countryside which I had hunted on six or seven years earlier.
Since then, hedge and field have been bulldozed clear and replaced with plastic houses and font laws. "Possum Ridge" it was once called, but there were no possums there now; just plastic toys, playground equipment, fresh cut lawns and asphalt driveways.
To read more about what is happening to the land around Washington and Baltimore (and why) read The Fox Versus the Stork.