UK grassland trends and ecosystem service delivery

Client Name
Plantlife International and WWF
  • Ecology
  • Natural capital & ecosystem services


In the UK, species-rich grasslands provide a wide array of benefits for nature, climate, and people. It is widely accepted that there has been a large decline in the extent of these species-rich grasslands across the UK since the 1930s. 

However, there have been limited studies exploring the recent overall trends in their extent, and evidence relating to the ecosystem services (ES) that they provide has not been comprehensively collated and summarised. 


SLR was commissioned by Plantlife and WWF to undertake two key pieces of research.

The first report reviews the existing evidence and data on the trends and extent of species-rich and semi-natural grasslands, broken down by UK nation where possible. The report provides a more complete picture of their status, while also identifying where there are gaps in the available evidence.

The second report provides a review of existing literature and evidence on the numerous ES associated with species-rich grasslands. The ES detailed include but were not limited towater regulation, water purification, flood protection, pasture for livestock, pollination, climate regulation, and cultural services.


These reports are intended to inform the understanding of these diverse habitats and inform decision-making around the restoration, management, and creation of species-rich grasslands. 

Our research supports that drivers of declines in grasslands include: artificial fertilisers, conversion to improved grassland or arable land, abandonment of traditional management, pollution and fragmentation. 

Of our remaining grasslands, semi-natural grasslands exemplify the full multitude of ES, more so than improved grasslands.

Our reports note that it is essential to consider potential trade-offs when land-use decisions prioritise certain ES or habitats over others. In the UK, the best balance of grassland ES may vary geographically. 

Our reports highlight the importance of: grasslands in policy; investing in research; supporting grassland restoration; and fostering collaboration among stakeholders. 

In protecting and enhancing grasslands, we will not only protect our environment but enhance the multitude of ES they provide. This will help build a sustainable and prosperous future for the UK and its people, inspiring everyone to act as stewards of our precious habitats.