The Grassland GAP

Sunday 13th August 2023

…a blog from the Buglife Team


What comes to mind when you hear that word?

Rolling expanses of wide-open space; something akin to a plain or a tundra?  Maybe a meadow or a grazing pasture?  What about your local park or community green space?  Did a smaller space pop into your head? How about your garden or maybe even the roadside verges you see on a daily basis?

Believe it or not, all of these are grasslands.  Different sizes and types of grassland, but grassland none-the-less.

Buglife Team Surveying in Surrey © Rachel Richards
Buglife Team Surveying in Surrey © Rachel Richards

Here at Buglife, much of our B-Lines work has a strong focus on grasslands, from roadside verges right up to meadows and grazing pastures, and the quality of these precious (potentially) flower-rich habitats is something we strive to enhance and improve through our work, and the advice that we share.  Working with farmers, local authorities and private landowners, individuals, schools, community groups and everyone in between.  Anyone who wants to listen to our message; who wants to make a difference for pollinators and wildlife in our fast-paced, nature-depleted world.

Last week members of the Buglife team visited a Spaces4Nature chalk grassland project site in Surrey.  Their goal?  To develop our own grassland assessment skills and in turn improve our work and the advice we offer.

Chalk grassland is one of the most species-rich grassland habitats we have in the UK and always a pleasure and privilege to visit.  Whether you prefer to watch Skylarks soaring above, spot Dwarf Thistle or watch a Pantaloon Bee (Dasypoda hirtipes) with its huge orange pollen baskets, grasslands hold something for everyone. The concern however, is that species-rich grassland, and other semi-natural grasslands, are rapidly disappearing.  Many people may never have the chance to enjoy them, unless we make significant changes to how we value and care for our grasslands.

Plantlife Incredible Grasslands Infographic
Plantlife’s Incredible Grasslands Infographic (click to make bigger)

With competing pressures on land across the UK, we need to make the most of all our grasslands, which currently cover at least 40% of our island nation.  Appropriately managed and connected grasslands (including semi-natural and species-rich areas) can have multiple purposes; providing a wealth of benefits including food production, nature’s recovery, clean air and water, pollination services, accessible green space, soil health, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

From upland pastures, ancient and floodplain meadows, to gardens, parks and road verges, grasslands are a major national asset and require a strategic, cross-sectoral approach led by government.  To that end, we have joined forces with Plantlife, and an array of partners, to call on the UK Government to commit to developing a Grassland Action Plan for England.

The majority of our ancient wildlife-rich grasslands have been destroyed and they are now among the UK’s rarest habitats – with losses continuing today.  Over-fertilised and monoculture fields now dominate our landscape, providing few benefits for nature, people or our climate.

B-Lines is working to combat this.  An imaginative and beautiful solution to the problem of the loss of flowers and pollinators. A series of ‘insect pathways’ running through our countryside and towns, along which we are restoring and creating a series of wildflower-rich habitat stepping stones. Linking existing wildlife areas together, creating a network, like a railway, that will weave across the UK landscape; providing large areas of brand new habitat benefiting bees and butterflies– but also a host of other wildlife.  But more can be done…

It’s time for real action to make the most of our incredible grasslands.  To unlock the benefits of grasslands, a new approach is needed. We’re calling on governments in the UK to make the most of our grasslands.  That’s where the call for a Grassland Action Plan comes in; closing The Grassland Gap.

Below you will find links to various Plantlife reports and supporting information regarding the call on the UK Government to commit to developing a Grassland Action Plan for England.

Call for a Grassland Action Plan for England – Briefing
Grasslands as a Carbon Store
Review of Trends in Grasslands Across the UK
Valuing the Vital – Grassland Ecosystem Services in the UK








The partners: