Semi-natural Grasslands

When selecting the most appropriate semi-natural grassland habitat to establish within a site, it is important to be aware of similar habitats in the surrounding landscape. Existing grassland habitats in the adjacent landscape are likely to be a good indicator of the grassland habitats which can be established within a site. Fossitt (2000) A Guide to Habitats in Ireland provides a general overview of the semi-natural grasslands and species which one would expect to find in the Irish landscape.

The soil type within a site is also an important factor to consider in the establishment of grassland habitats.  The pH and fertility of the soil will also determine the most appropriate grassland type for establishment e.g. a Dry calcareous and Neutral grassland (GS1) or a Dry-Humid Acid grassland (GS3).  It should be noted that nutrient rich topsoils are generally considered unsuitable for semi-natural grassland establishment. Areas proposed for grassland establishment should be protected from compaction by plant machinery during construction/development activities. Sometimes suitable soil may need to be brought into a site to ensure compatibility for grassland establishment or where soil has been heavily compacted. Checking and Monitoring for Non-native Species is important when considering the importation of soil to a site.

If permission can be obtained, it would be useful to carry out a survey of the closest known semi-natural grassland to identify the soil type and to find out what native species are growing there to assist in selecting the most suitable grassland type for establishment.

For further details please click on How to Create a Semi-natural Grassland.  A description of the semi-natural grassland habitats in Ireland is provided below.  
 

Habitat type & Code (Fossitt 2000) Description
Dry Calcareous Grassland and Neutral Grassland (Photo Paula Kearney) Dry calcareous and neutral grassland
GS1

This category is used for unimproved or semi-improved dry grassland that may be either calcareous or neutral, but not acid. It is associated with low intensity agriculture and typically occurs on free-draining mineral soils of various depths. Calcareous grassland is restricted...

Dry meadows and grassy verges
GS2

Dry meadows that are rarely fertilised or grazed, and are mown only once or twice a year for hay are now rare in Ireland. Most have been improved for agriculture and this type of grassland is now best represented on grassy roadside verges, on the margins of tilled fields, on railway...

Dry Humid Acid Grassland (Photo Paula Kearney) Dry-humid acid grassland
GS3

Unimproved or semi-improved grassland that occurs on free-draining acid soils that may be dry or humid, but not waterlogged. This type of grassland mainly occurs on mineral rich or peaty podzols in upland areas or on low-lying siliceous soils. It is usually most...

Wet Grassland (Photo Lisa M. J. Dolan) Wet grassland
GS4

This type of grassland can be found on flat or sloping ground in upland and lowland areas. It occurs on wet or waterlogged mineral or organic soils that are poorly-drained or, in some cases, subjected to seasonal or periodic flooding. On sloping ground, wet grassland is mainly...

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