Saving England's most threatened species from extinction

Colour in the Margins

Encouraging arable wildlife in our landscapes

Colour in the Margins has now finished - see what the project achieved click here

Farmland birds have declined by
%
since 1970
Arable plants are the
fastest
declining suite of plants in the UK
%
of England is farmland

What is the habitat for the Colour in the Margins project?

The colourful hues of cornfield flowers were once a familiar part of our arable landscape. Sadly they are also the fastest declining suite of plants in the UK. Fascinating, sometimes rare, and often overlooked - they are frequently threatened by the arable farming on which they depend. This has a knock-on effect for other wildlife, including ground beetles, bats and birds.

Why is this habitat at risk?

Arable habitats have been affected by modern farming practices such as the increased use of herbicides and fertilisers, changes from spring to autumn growing, and increased competition from modern crop varieties. These have reduced the chances that cornfield flowers have to spread and grow.

How we coloured in the margins

This Back from the Brink project, led by Plantlife, focussed on 13 species; 10 plants, and three ground beetles. Conservation work for these had benefits for many other threatened species, particularly 14 birds, two bryophytes, eight mammals, three insects and eight other arable plants. We developed ways to reintroduce and manage for these species, and worked to bring them back to suitable sites. We worked extensively with farmers and landowners to encourage them to take up these techniques.

We captured community recollections of animals and plants of the arable landscape, arranged farm visits, and provided training workshops, advice and guidance for farmers. We introduced people to the habitats by a programme of activities and volunteering.

What we achieved

Amongst many other things, we undertook an extensive programme of 69 reintroductions of target arable plant species to establish new populations, trialling new methodologies and producing best practice guidelines. Volunteers contributed by carrying out arable plant surveys and collecting seeds for deposition at Kew Millennium Seed Banks, as well as taking part in reintroductions, assisting with creating publications and data management, and increasing their plant identification skills through training. Thanks to the collaboration between our project team and the Royal Agricultural University, the next generation of farmers and advisors are now inspired and informed about arable plants through their degree courses.

Pheasant's-eye (Adonis annua). This rare 'arable weed' is threatened with extinction in the UK. Hampshire, UK. May. Focus stacked image.
Corn Buttercup (Ranunculus arvensis). Fivehead Arable Fields nature reserve, managed by the Somerset Widlife Trust. This site has one of the most important assemblages of rare arable weeds in Britain. Back from the Brink 'Colour in the Margins' project. Somerset, UK. June.
CitM Interrupted Brome - Bromus interruptus c_E_L_Cooke 1024
Red hemp-nettle Galeopsis angustifolia 4 c Cath Shellswell
Small flowered catchfly (c) Andrew Gagg-Plantlife (1)
Broad-fruited_cornsalad.JPG
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Project contact

enquiries@plantlife.org.uk

MOSEY IN THE
MARGINS

Take a closer look at the wildlife
in our arable landscapes
using this guide.

MitM image

FRIENDS IN THE
FIELDS

A companion guide to help you
explore habitats while wandering
through arable fields.

Friends in the fields image

ARABLE BEGINNERS'
BUGOLOGY

A guide to familiarise you with
farmers' friends around an
arable farm.

Bugology image 06.11.20

CROSS STITCH PATTERNS AND COLOURING SHEETS

Bring these wonderful species to life in a creative way!

EDUCATION RESOURCES

Resources for schools, farms, parents and carers, to engage children with arable habitat.

Learning and Enquiry Packs

HIGHER EDUCATION RESOURCES

Resources for Colleges and Universities

ARABLE PLANT & HABITAT INFORMATION

Crib Sheets

Identification tables for groups of closely related plants.

Bellflowers
Cudweeds
Borages
Pansies
Pimpernels
Yellow Daisies
Pinks
Tares
Borages
mints

Species Information Sheets

Introductory Guides for Colour in the Margins Species

Ecology and Conservation Portfolios

Habitat Management Guides

Information for Farmers and Land Managers

Seed Conservation and Sowing

How to Collect, Store and Sow Seeds

ARABLE PLANT SURVEYS

Survey Forms and Instructions

How to Survey for Arable Plants

Back from the Brink Innovations Conference Presentation

Species Recovery and Management - Farmland and Bareground

News Archive

Event Archive

Project lead

Delivery partners