Much of the grassland in Ayrshire can be classified as agriculturally improved grassland, meaning it has been significantly modified through farming practices such as fertiliser application, drainage and pesticide application.
Ayrshire has a range of different types of grassland which are dependent upon the underlying geology. Acid grassland covers an area of 1143ha in Ayrshire and is found on soils with a low pH, which are derived from rocks which contain acidic mineral compositions such as igneous rocks and sandstone. Acid grassland is most abundant in the uplands and this is true of Ayrshire where acid grassland can be found in Grey Hill Grasslands, Arran Northern Mountains and the Muirkirk Uplands. These areas generally have a low floristic diversity, but are an important area for raptors, fungi and lichens.
Base rich grassland, also known as calcareous grassland occurs in areas with shallow soils and an underlying geology of base rich rocks such as limestone, chalk, and in Ayrshire, serpentine. This type of habitat is generally restricted to south Ayrshire such as at Aldans Hill SSSI and the Lendalfoot complex. These grasslands support a very high diversity of flowering plants, and noteworthy plants such as Spring Sandwort Minuartia verna. It is also an area of high importance for butterflies and invertebrates, especially if the grassland forms a mosaic with bracken, scrub and rock outcrops.
Semi-natural or unimproved neutral grasslands are grasslands that have had little agricultural improvement and are usually managed as pastured or hay meadows. Examples in Ayrshire include Auchalton Meadows SSSI and Feoch Meadows SSSI. Such meadows are species rich and tend to be very colourful in the summer months due to a high proportion of broad-leaved herbaceous species relative to grass. Higher plants include Spignel Meum athamanticum, Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio and Adders Tongue Ophioglossum Spp. During the summer period these meadows are a great place to see grasshoppers, bees and butterflies such as the Scotch Argus Erebia aethiops and the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary Boloria selene.
SUP is registered in Scotland as a company limited by guarantee with charitable status. Registered address: The Southern Uplands Partnership, Studio 2, Lindean Mill, Galashiels, TD1 3PE. Company No. SC200827 / Charity No. SCO29475