ACID GRASSLAND RESTORATION

Lowland acid grassland is an important habitat for many species of wildlife that is becoming increasingly rare on Tooting Common. Nationally this habitat is under threat from a wide range of activities such as intensive agriculture, including the use of fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, and poor management, which can lead to rank vegetation and scrub encroachment. Recreation also has a negative effect on this habitat, disturbing wildlife and causing compaction and erosion of the soil.

As part of the Tooting Common Heritage Project, acid grassland on two areas of Tooting Common – The Lido Field and Tooting Graveney Woods – have been restored, enhanced and expanded. This will serve to make the population of target species on the existing parcels larger and less vulnerable.

Description of works:

The first phase of the project was completed in December 2016 and involved the removal of invasive species, including bramble, scrub and tall herb from the area of the Common that is home to the grassland. It also involved cutting back hawthorn trees and removing some overcrowded oak and turkey oaks to reduce shading and prevent leaf fall onto the grassland, which badly affects its acidity levels.  

In late spring 2017 the top layer of soil was removed from these areas to help recreate the delicate acid grassland landscape, which provides a rich habitat for insects like butterflies and grasshoppers. This process has proven effective in the past at allowing acid grassland species, which prefer nutrient poor soil, to recolonize on Tooting Common. The excess earth from the soil scraping has been used to expand the bund bank, which forms a border between the acid grassland and the amenity sport pitches and provides many ecological benefits.

A new interpretation panel will be installed in 2019 to encourage people to learn about the wildlife value of this habitat..

Image: Alan Wilkinson