Conservation Evidence strives to be as useful to conservationists as possible. Please take our survey to help the team improve our resource.

Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Manage heather by swiping to simulate burning Farmland Conservation

Key messages

Read our guidance on Key messages before continuing

  • A replicated controlled trial in Northern Ireland found that heather moorland subject to flailing to simulate burning had more plant species eight years after the management, than control unflailed plots, but fewer plant species than burned plots.


Supporting evidence from individual studies


A replicated, controlled trial in Northern Ireland (McEvoy et al. 2006) found that heather moorland plots subject to flailing to simulate burning in 1996 had more plant species in 2004, eight years after management, than control unmanaged plots but fewer species than burned plots. Flailed plots had 26 species/site on average (average of 13 moss and liverwort species (bryophytes)), compared to 28 species/site on average on burned plots (average of 15 moss and liverwort species) and 20 species/site on control plots (10 moss and liverwort species). One year after the management, in 1997, both flailed and control plots had 23 plant species (11 moss and liverwort species) on average. The cover by mosses and liverworts increased significantly between 1997 and 2004 on flailed sites and on burned sites (numbers not given). Flailed sites had lower cover of heather Calluna vulgaris in 2004 than eight burned sites in the same study (about 30% compared to 35% heather cover). Six sites managed by flailing in 1996 to stimulate heather regeneration were surveyed in 1997 and again in 2004. Plants were surveyed in four 4 m2 quadrats per site. Adjacent unmanaged control areas were surveyed at each site.

Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Dicks, L.V., Ashpole, J.E., Dänhardt, J., James, K., Jönsson, A., Randall, N., Showler, D.A., Smith, R.K., Turpie, S., Williams D.R. & Sutherland, W.J. (2019) Farmland Conservation Pages 291-330 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, N. Ockendon, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2019. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.