Hedgerow removal is part of the transition of arable land from low-intensity to high-intensity farming. The removal of hedgerows gives larger fields making the sowing and harvesting of crops easier, faster and cheaper, and giving a larger area to grow the crops, increasing yield and profits.
Hedgerows serve as important wildlife corridors, especially in the United Kingdom where they link the country's fractured ancient woodland. They also serve as a habitat for birds and other animals. As the land within a few metres of hedges is difficult to plough, sow, or spray with herbicides, the land around hedges also typically includes high plant biodiversity. Hedges also serve to stabilise the soil and on slopes help prevent soil creep and leaching of minerals and plant nutrients. Removal thus weakens the soil and leads to erosion.
In the United Kingdom hedgerow removal has been occurring since World War I as technology made intensive farming possible, and the increasing population demanded more food from the land. The trend has slowed down somewhat since the 1980s when cheap food imports reduced the demand on British farmland, and as the European Union Common Agricultural Policy made environmental projects financially viable. Under reforms to national and EU agricultural policies the environmental impact of farming features more highly and in many places hedgerow conservation and replanting is taking place.
- About the Hedgerows Regulations 1997