Action: Strip turf to control grass
Key messagesRead our guidance on Key messages before continuing
- One controlled study in the UK found that cutting and removing turf increased the number of heathland plants. The same study found that the presence of a small number of heathland plants increased, and that the presence of a small number of non-heathland plants decreased.
- One replicated, controlled study in the UK found that presence of heather was similar in areas where turf was cut and areas that were mown or rotovated.
- One replicated, controlled study in the UK found that the presence of wavy hair grass was similar in areas where turf was cut and those that were mown or rotovated.
Turf was traditionally stripped so that it could be used as fuel. However, reduction in the use of this technique is thought to have resulted in an increase in grass species in some shrublands (Bokdam and Gleichman 2000). Reintroducing turf cutting may help to reduce the abundance of problematic grass species.
Bokdam, J. & Gleichman, J.M. (2000) Effects of grazing by free-ranging cattle on vegetation dynamics in a continental north-west European heathland. Journal of Applied Ecology, 37, 415-431.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A controlled study in 1983–1989 in two former heathlands converted to grasslands in Dorset, UK (Smith et al. 1991) found that cutting and removing turf increased the number of heathland plant species in two of two cases, increased the presence of heathland plant species in seven of 16 cases, and reduced the presence of a minority of non-heathland plant species for four of 22 cases. After six years, areas where turf had been cut and removed had a higher number of heathland plant species (6–7 species) than areas where turf was not cut (5 species). Presence of heathland plant species was higher in plots where turf was cut than in plots that were uncut in seven of 16 comparisons (cut: 6–87%, uncut: 0–55%), and lower in two of 16 comparisons (cut: 6–37%, uncut: 16-68%). Presence of non-heathland plant species was higher in plots where turf had been cut than in uncut plots in four of 22 comparisons (cut: 4–79%, uncut: 0–15%), and lower in four of 22 comparisons (cut: 1-5%, uncut: 7–26%). In 1983 turf was cut and removed from five 25 m2 plots and in five plots turf was left uncut. In 1989 four 1 m2 quadrats divided into twenty-five 20 cm x 20 cm squares were placed in each plot and the presence of plant species in each square recorded.
A replicated, controlled study in 1996–1998 in a heathland invaded by wavy hair-grass Deschampsia flexuosa in Breckland, UK (Britton et al. 2000) found that cutting turf did not decrease the presence of wavy-hair grass or increase the presence of heather Calluna vulgaris compared to mowing or rotovating. After two years, wavy hair-grass presence in plots where turf had been cut (98%) was not significantly different to presence in mown (100%) or rotovated plots (99%). After two years, heather presence did not differ significantly between plots where turf was cut (24%) and those that had been rotovated (10%) or mown (5%). In August 1996 in five 4 m2 areas turf and soil were removed to a depth of 10 cm, a number of 0.5 ha areas were rotovated, and grass was cut to a height of 10 cm or less in a number of 1–2 ha blocks. Five 4 m2 plots were established in each of the areas subject to different interventions. Each plot was divided into a grid of 20 cm x 20 cm squares and presence of species was recorded in each square twice a year in 1996–1998.
- Smith R.E.N., Webb N.R. & Clarke R.T. (1991) The establishment of heathland on old fields in Dorset, England. Biological Conservation, 57, 221-234
- Britton A.J., Carey P.D., Pakeman R.J. & Marrs R.H. (2000) A comparison of regeneration dynamics following gap creation at two geographically contrasting heathland sites. Journal of Applied Ecology, 37