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Grazing and Foraging

Grazing marsh is defined as periodically inundated pasture, or meadow with ditches which maintain the water levels, containing standing brackish or fresh water. The ditches are especially rich in plants and invertebrates. Almost all areas are grazed and some are cut for hay or silage. Grazing marshes are particularly important for the number of breeding waders they also support internationally important populations of wintering wildfowl. Coastal foraging covers a wide variety of wild food available at the coast such as plants, seaweeds, shellfish and crustaceans. 

The Wildlife Trusts provide the following explanation for coastal grazing:

Coastal and floodplain grazing marsh is found on low-lying coasts and along slow-flowing rivers and estuaries and is often flooded in winter, although it generally lies behind flood defences. Some 500 plants have been recorded from the most diverse grazing marshes, but these comprise just 5% of grazing marshes - most have been agriculturally ‘improved’ and are of limited botanical interest. Perennial rye-grass, Yorkshire fog and rushes tend to dominate the sward, enlivened by damper patches of floating sweet-grass, creeping bent and silverweed. However, freshwater or brackish ditches (created for drainage purposes) and the remains of old creek systems where farmed land has been created on former saltmarsh can support interesting plants and good populations of invertebrates, including those such as dragonflies and damselflies that have both aquatic and terrestrial stages. Tussocky, damp swards provide good habitat for foraging and breeding waders and shallow flooding creates ideal conditions for overwintering wildfowl.

Solent Waders and Brent Goose Strategy

The Solent Waders and Brent Goose Strategy is a conservation partnership project, which aims to conserve the internationally important brent goose and wading bird populations within and around the Special Protection Areas and Ramsar wetlands of the Solent coast. One important habitat for the birds is coastal grazing marsh. 


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