The importance of mature and relatively undisturbed hedgerows in the current Welsh countryside cannot be overstated. As such, the reference state for hedgerows are mature examples that are managed only when absolutely necessary, e.g. for access/practical purposes, and even then managed conservatively in relatively short sections on a long rotation. This will minimise the risk of management actions having a long-term impact on the rich and increasingly dependent biodiversity associated with the hedgerows. Mature hedgerows play a key role in the life cycles of large numbers of mammals, birds and invertebrates in Wales and are used throughout the year. A key role of hedgerows and hedge banks is to provide connectivity between dispersed invertebrate populations – this is critical for pollinators such as bees, butterflies and hoverflies at a time when the distance between flower-rich habitats is increasing year on year. Small mammals, e.g. shrews, mice and voles use hedgerows and hedge banks for nesting and feeding, while bats use the shelter of hedgerows for feeding, for protection during navigation to feeding grounds and for hibernation during the winter months. Similarly, many species of bird use hedgerows for breeding and feeding, with hawthorn berries and sloes providing an important source of food for migrating and wintering thrush population.