Releasing game is one of the main incentives for managing and planting hedgerows in England, thereby conserving a wide range of wildlife, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research.
The study shows that game shooting estates have 65% more hedgerow per km2 than farms with no games hooting.
The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Dr Roger Draycott, one of the study’s authors, said: “This confirms that game management plays an important role in helping to retain hedgerow habitats in the UK and thus offers potential for much wider biodiversity benefits to wildlife recovery as a whole.”
Conservationists have long been concerned about the disappearance of UK hedgerows, recognised as being vitally important habitats for a range of birds and other wildlife.
Since the 1950s, as many as 300,000 miles have been lost.
The study, which was carried out on 150 sites in southern and eastern England, also identified that hedge banks, which offer valuable nesting cover and provide over-wintering areas for insects, were on average 25% wider on game estates.
Dr Draycott said: “Previous studies have reported that woodland management for game can benefit a wide range of wildlife. We were keen to identify whether this extended to hedgerows because, in the long-term, they can only survive with correct management.”
“The study confirms that game management delivers a wide range of conservation benefits that are vital in helping to retain this important habitat.”