Hedgerows should not be trimmed for a decade to help Britains bats

The study recommends that in future farmers are encouraged to keep hedgerows untrimmed for longer periods (>3 up to 10 years). The National Farmers’ Union disagreed that farmers should have to keep hedges untrimmed for a decade.A spokesperson added:  “British farmers are custodians of the countryside. Many are in voluntary agri-environment schemes that help deliver an array of environmental benefits including increased wildlife. Some farmers who enter these schemes manage the landscape to support insect populations which provides a food source for bat species. Woodland creation and management on farm also provide homes to bat species.”A Defra spokesperson said: “We take the protection and conservation of bats very seriously – which is why we are clear that countryside hedgerows cannot be removed without approval from the local planning authority first.“Once we leave the EU, we have also committed to move to a new Environmental Land Management system based on paying public money for public goods, and this includes rewarding farmers for protecting hedgerows and enabling wildlife to thrive.” Hedgerows should be left untrimmed for up to ten years in order to help the bat population, a new study has found.The research, by the University of Bristol and the Bat Conservation Society, found that three of Britain’s rarest bat species – the Greater Horseshoe, Lesser Horseshoe and Plecotus – were found more abundantly in untrimmed hedges, as were their insect prey.Currently, the law states that hedgerows should be trimmed only one year in three, unless permission is sought from the local council.In the study, scientists monitored 64 hedges in various states of trim, and surveyed the wildlife they found in and around them over the summer of 2016.They found that insect and bat species richness significantly increased with time since last trimming.Taller hedgerows had more space for bat and insect life, and leaving them untrimmed creates a complex branch structure, perfect for wildlife to hide in.Researcher  Jérémy Froidevaux said: “While the less severe trimming regime prescribed by previous and current AESs in England encourages farmers to trim hedgerows only one year in three, our study largely supports the longer term benefits of non‐trimming on bats and their insect prey.”Keeping some hedgerows untrimmed for up to 10 years would enhance bat species richness and insect family diversity. Overall, this study shines a light on the success of targeted agri-environment schemes for promoting some of the most threatened bat species in Western Europe”. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.

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