Action: Manage heather by swiping to simulate burning
- 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.
This intervention may involve cutting or swiping heather to simulate the effects of burning. Cutting/swiping can be carried out using a flail mounted on a tractor (Defra 2007).
Defra (2007) The Heather and Grass Burning Code – 2007 version. Defra Publications, London.
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.