A meadow is a field habitat vegetated by grass and other non-woody plants (grassland). Meadows are of ecological importance because they are open, sunny areas that attract and support flora and fauna that could not thrive in other conditions. Meadows may be naturally occurring or artificially created from cleared shrub or woodland. They often host a multitude of wildlife, providing areas for courtship displays, nesting, food gathering and sometimes sheltering if the vegetation is high enough. Many meadows support a wide array of wildflowers, which makes them of utmost importance to pollinating insects, including bees, and hence the entire ecosystem. In agriculture, a meadow is grassland which is not regularly grazed by domestic livestock, but rather allowed to grow unchecked in order to produce hay.
1 Agriculture 2 Transitional meadows 3 Perpetual meadow 4 Cultural, semi-cultural or natural? 5 See also 6 References 7 External links
Especially in the
An uncut hay meadow.
Montane hay meadows with haystacks.
An orchard meadow.
A meadow (pasture) maintained by grazing livestock.
Artificially grazed meadow.
A transitional meadow occurs when a field, pasture, farmland, or other
cleared land is no longer cut or grazed and starts to display
luxuriant growth, extending to the flowering and self-seeding of its
grass and wild flower species. The condition is however only
temporary, because the grasses eventually become shaded out when scrub
and woody plants become well-established, being the forerunners of the
return to a fully wooded state. A transitional state can be
artificially-maintained through a double-field system, in which
cultivated soil and meadows are alternated for a period of 10 to 12
Abandoned meadow in England.
The same landscape some years later.
Conifers encroaching on a meadow in Washington, USA.
Perpetual meadow A perpetual meadow, also called a natural meadow, is one in which environmental factors, such as climatic and soil conditions, are favorable to perennial grasses and restrict the growth of woody plants indefinitely. Types of perpetual meadows may include:
The perpetual alpine meadows in Uttarakhand, India (western Himalayas).
The Coastal meadows at the
Bay of Biscay
A desert meadow near
Walla Walla, Washington
Perpetual meadows in Oregon, USA.
Natural meadows and grasslands at Lake Baikal, Russia.
Cultural, semi-cultural or natural? Apart from the perpetual meadows, meadows are often conceived of as artificial or cultural habitats, since they have emerged from and continually require human intervention to persist and flourish. It can be argued however, that meadows are really semi-cultural habitats and not entirely cultural. The reason is, that in many places the natural, pristine populations of free roaming large grazers are either extinct or very limited due to human activities. This reduces or removes their natural influence on the surrounding ecology and results in meadows only being created or maintained by human intervention. It is true that in many places the existing meadows would gradually disappear if not artificially maintained by mainly agricultural practices, but with a reintroduction of natural populations of large grazers, meadows could again reappear as natural habitats in the landscape. Mankind has influenced the ecology and the landscape for millennia in many parts of the world, so it can sometimes be difficult to discern what is natural and what is cultural. Meadows are one example. As extensive farming like grazing is diminishing in some parts of the world, the meadow is endangered as a habitat. Some scientific projects are therefore experimenting with reintroduction of natural grazers. This includes deer, elk, goat, wild horse, etc. depending on the location. A more exotic example with a wider scope, is the European Tauros Programme.
Free roaming roe deer grazing a meadow in Denmark.
Free roaming ponies on the meadows of Sable Island, Canada
Feral goat grazing in Kielder Forest, England.
Feral horses grazing montane meadows in Himachal Pradesh, India.
Some subtypes of meadows:
Flower meadows Wooded meadows Wet meadow Water-meadow Flood-meadow Coastal meadow
Beach meadow Fell meadow
Seagrass meadow Tapestry lawn
Closely related habitats:
Coastal plain Flooded grasslands and savannas Marsh Pampa Plain Plateau Rangeland Savanna Sods Steppe Tundra Veld
^ Maryland Department of Natural Resources, "Maryland's Wild Acres."
Archived 2013-06-04 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
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UK Wild Meadows Website
Irish Wild Meadows Website