Heath, Mountain and Croplands



For The Greater Concentration of argument, the character of open ground and field types has so far been illustrated chiefly by the communities of grassland, and among these mainly by the ones on calcareous ground at Wytham. In them the interplay between plant and animal often decides the actual structure of the habitat, with its lateral and vertical zones, and internal patterns. These communities, however, form only a small part of the whole spectrum outside scrub and woodland and their immediate edges, and not on wet soil. But although much is understood about the distribution and variety of the plant associations, our knowledge of the animal communities is still confined to small sample and usually incomplete surveys. But we can say without any doubt that meadows on calcareous or neutral soils have the richest variety of species of flowering plants and animals, far richer than heath, bracken, hill grazings, montane zones, croplands and at least some maritime habitats. Even the pure Brachypodium pinnatum patch at Wytham described in the last chapter — a peculiar version of grassland with only one species left and that highly unfavourable to herbivorous insects — carries probably over 400 species of animals. How much greater must be the profusion in the fauna of a mixed meadow with say 60 species of flowering plants!


Bare Sand Animal Community Open Ground Field Layer Tiger Beetle 
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© Charles S. Elton 1966

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