A student is asking farmers in Cornwall if they have rush pasture that she can study.

In just seven years it is believed that nearly two thirds of rush pasture sites in Devon and Cornwall have been lost.

Rush pasture is a nationally important habitat and a last haven for rare species such as the marsh fritillary butterfly (Euphydryas aurinia), devil’s bit scabious (Succisa pratensis) and a few rare orchids such as the southern marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa).

Most rush pastures in Europe are within the UK, notably in Devon, Cornwall, and South Wales where they are known as ‘Culm’ or ‘Rhos’ grassland.

Purple moor grass and rush pasture is recognised with a Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), but many areas of rush pasture remain too small to qualify for this designation.

An estimated 62 per cent of rush pasture sites in Devon and Cornwall have been lost between 1984 and 1991 with changes in agricultural practices widely cited as the main catalyst driving this loss.

Ironically, agriculture is also heralded as the potential guardian and redeemer of this priority habitat, with many environmental schemes being shown to have a positive effect on the preservation and regeneration of these vulnerable habitats.

Indeed, much of this habitat would return to scrub and woodland and lose much of its characteristic plant communities without grazing.

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Annie Yeo, a farmer’s wife and MSc student from Manchester Metropolitan University, is attempting to assess the state of these remaining pockets of pasture by studying their plant diversity.

She is surveying rush pasture that is in agri-environment schemes and rush pasture that remains outside of schemes in Cornwall.

She is asking farmers and landowners who are custodians of this habitat to allow her to survey their plots.

Annie will survey the plots on a day in June or July with minimum disturbance to the habitat and landowner.

In return Annie will give the landowner a comprehensive species list and soil analysis.

If you have any areas that may be of interest - even if they are smaller than a hectare - you can email her at rushsurvey4@gmail.com with the grid references of the fields.