Socio-economic aspects of floodplain meadows

© Mike Dodd

Socio-economic aspects of floodplain meadows


Meadows are semi-natural, meaning they form part of a socio-economic system.  Understanding the farming and wider cultural systems that underpin meadows is part of what the Partnership aims to do.  The composition of a meadow depends heavily on when its manager decides to cut, how intensively they choose to graze and how assiduous they are at maintaining its surface drainage.  Such decisions integrate multiple factors and it is important to understand the decision-making process.  Land managers make their decisions on a range of factors, both economic (e.g. the role meadows play within the wider farming enterprise)  and also social (e.g. the role meadows play in the local historical and cultural environment.)

Meadows are often supported and appreciated by a wider community and we aim to explore the benefits a site confers and how they are valued.


Qualitative, or mixed, research methods are used.  Archival studies, practitioner interviews and direct observation are all employed.  Thematic analysis of accounts is undertaken together with the contingent valuation of services.

Related projects


Vicky Bowskill is working on a PhD project called Hay Time, which considers how cutting date affects hay yield and hay quality.  As part of her research she has interviewed people who manage floodplain meadows (drawn from the commercial sector, the conservation sector and all points in between) to explore the factors that influence their decision on when to cut their meadows.  She has analysed these data, using thematic analysis, to identify the most important themes.  She has then presented her early results on hay yield and quality to the same group of managers to ascertain whether new information alters their views.

Our publications

McGinlay, J.; Gowing, D.J.G. and Budds, J. (2017). The threat of abandonment in socio-ecological landscapes: Farmers' motivations and perspectives on high nature value grassland conservation. Environmental Science & Policy, 69 pp. 39–49

Rouquette, J.R.; Posthumus, H.; Morris, J.; Hess, T.M.; Dawson, Q.L. and Gowing, D.J.G. (2011). Synergies and trade-offs in the management of lowland rural floodplains: an ecosystem services approach. Hydrological Sciences Journal, 56(8) pp. 1566–1581.

Posthumus, H.; Rouquette, J. R.; Morris, J.; Gowing, D. J. G. and Hess, T. M. (2010). A framework for the assessment of ecosystem goods and services; a case study on lowland floodplains in England. Ecological Economics, 69(7) pp. 1510–1523.

McGinlay, J., Gowing, D.J.G. and Budds, J. (2016) Conserving socio-ecological landscapes: An analysis of traditional and responsive management practices for floodplain meadows in England.  Environmental Science and Policy, 66, 234-241.  doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2016.07.008

Rouquette, J.R., Posthumus, H., Morris, J., Hess, T.M., Dawson Q.L. & Gowing D.J.G. (2011): Synergies and trade-offs in the management of lowland rural floodplains: an ecosystem services approach, Hydrological Sciences Journal, 56, 1566-1581.
Rouquette, J.R., Posthumus, H., Gowing, D.J.G., Tucker, G., Dawson, Q.L., Hess, T.M., Morris, J. (2009) Valuing nature-conservation interests on agricultural floodplains. Journal of Applied Ecology, 46, 289-296
Morris, J., H. Posthumus, T.M. Hess, D.J.G. Gowing, J.R. Rouquette (2009) Watery land: the management of lowland floodplains in England. In: M. Winter and M. Lobley (Eds.) What is land for? The food, fuel and climate change debate. Earthscan pp.320. ISBN 9781844077205.


Photo of Christchurch college, Oxford with flooded field
Christchurch College, Oxford © Irina Tatarenko