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Keston And Hayes Commons - Unit 1

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Staff member responsible for SSSI unit: Julie Russ
Unit ID: 1004994
Unit area: 2 hectares
Main habitat: Dwarf shrub heath - lowland
Condition:   Unfavourable recovering
Latest assessment date: 17 July 2014
Condition assessment comment: This is an unusual area of heath vegetation developed over bare gravels. It has features of considerable interest and parts are in good condition but management to control scrub encroachment, increase the amount of bare ground and short vegetation present, and to increase diversity in the heath vegetation would all be beneficial. Heather is the dominant species in the community although bell heather is frequent. There is a grassy element in the frequent occurrence of sheep's fescue and occasional wavy hair-grass, early hair-grass and purple moor-grass. Other components of the community are pill sedge, heath bedstraw, wood sage and catsear, and there are small amounts of goldenrod. Lichens and bryophytes are notably prominent in the open, gravelly area. A common lizard was noted and habitat conditions provide good cover for this species. There is good representation of bare ground in places but a large proportion of the area has little bare ground. Over most of the area heather is in the mature to degenerate growth phase and there is a lot of tall, straggly and woody growth. This means that there is poor structural diversity and few gaps in the vegetation. It also means that the vegetation presents a high fire risk. Management to increase structural diversity and to promote the development of short heather is desirable. Ideally, patches of short vegetation should be frequent across the area and heather in the early stages of development should be prominent. Gorse is frequent and forms dense thickets in places. There is quite a lot of encroaching scrub, mainly silver birch and oak, and overall cover of scrub including gorse is above desirable levels. There is evidence of management to control scrub encroachment in places but more is needed. Other aspects meet targets. There is no bracken encroachment, or problems associated with non-native species or weed problems.
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