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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Re-route paths to reduce habitat disturbance Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

Key messages

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  • One before-and-after trial in Australia found that closing paths did not alter shrub cover, but did increase the number of plant species in an alpine shrubland.

Supporting evidence from individual studies


A before-and-after trial between 2001 and 2011 in alpine shrubland in Victoria, Australia (de Bie & Vesk 2014) found that closing paths to reduce habitat disturbance increased the number of plant species, but did not alter shrub cover. After paths were closed former tracks had a higher number of plant species (15 species) than prior to paths being closed (12 species), as well as a higher number of species than areas that were adjacent to paths (12 species). Shrub cover on tracks did not differ significantly before (22%) or after (21%) closure, and this was not significantly different to adjacent areas (33%). Before path closure shrubs in areas adjacent to tracks were taller (26 cm) than those on tracks (17 cm) but after closure there was no significant difference in shrub heights between areas adjacent to tracks (14 cm) and former tracks (20 cm). Horse riding tracks were closed in 2001. In 2001 and 2011 vegetation cover was surveyed using forty 25 m2 plots. Plots were either placed on tracks or directly adjacent to tracks.

Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Martin P.A., Rocha R., Smith R.K. & Sutherland W.J. (2019) Shrubland and Heathland Conservation. Pages 493-538 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.