Emily Terry writes:
On the last day of April, we enjoyed a gorgeous tea party in warmth of the sun as we stood in Long Mead meadow which was close to bursting with colour, fragrance and the roaring sound of insects. A group of Oxford Brookes masters students and their lecturers spent the day examining the meadow, identifying each plant species within a 2 metre square area, a more challenging task when the plants are yet to flower! It was interesting to see the difference in species diversity between the unimproved areas of the meadow (more diverse) compared to the areas where the soil was more fertile due a thick layer of silt that had been deposited decades back by dredging from the river (less diverse).
Later in the afternoon we were joined by a number of people who have been involved in the meadow restoration and nature recovery network processes. We enjoyed interesting talks from Prof. Kevan Martin, Catriona Bass, Dr. Michael Wilson, and Dr. Clare Lawson, each giving their own expertise on wildflower floodplain meadows. Every aspect of wildflower floodplain meadow importance was covered: their importance for plant and insect diversity, sharing examples such as Devil’s-bit scabious being a vital food source for the Marsh Fritillary butterfly; their ability to sequester large amounts of atmospheric carbon with roots of some of the plants reaching as deep as 3 metres; the fact these meadows are a part of modern day agriculture and should be valued far more highly than they currently are; and lastly, how we can work collaboratively to protect them.
The afternoon was underlined by the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme which plans on building a destructive channel endangering Hinksey Meadow, ultimately weakening Oxford’s wildlife corridor leading to biodiversity collapse. You can play your part in saving this rare and critical habitat by signing the ‘Save Hinksey Meadow’ petition - find out more here.