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: Cut trees and remove leaf litter Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

Key messages

Read our guidance on Key messages before continuing

  • One before-and-after trial in the Netherlands found that cutting trees and removing the litter layer increased the cover of two heather species and of three grass species.

Supporting evidence from individual studies


A before-and-after trial in 1989–1994 in a formerly forested wet heathland in the Netherlands (Jansen et al. 1996) found that cutting trees and removing the leaf litter layer increased the cover of two heather and three grass species. Fifteen years after trees were cut and leaf litter removed, the cover of common heather Calluna vulgaris and cross-leaved heath Erica tetralix (heather: 3%; cross-leaved heath: 2%) was higher than before cutting and removal of leaf litter (heather: 0%; cross-leaved heath: 0%). This pattern was also seen for purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea (before: 0%; after: 18%), bulbous rush Juncus bulbosus (before: 0%; after: 9%), and sharp flower rush Juncus acutiflorus (before: 0%; after: 7%). All trees were cut and the leaf litter removed in winter 1989. Twelve permanent plots measuring either 1 m2 or 4 m2 were established at the site in 1989 and vegetation cover was recorded in July or August for every year in 1989–1994.

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.