Action: Disturb vegetation
Key messagesRead our guidance on Key messages before continuing
- One randomized, replicated, controlled study in the UK found that vegetation disturbance did not increase the abundance or species richness of specialist plants but increased the abundance of generalist plants.
Disturbing vegetation reduces ground cover, allowing more light to reach the ground, and potentially increasing the germination of shrubland species.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A randomized, replicated, controlled study in 2009–2010 in heathland in Breckland, UK (Pedley et al. 2013) found that vegetation disturbance did not increase the abundance or species richness of specialist plants but increased the abundance of generalist plants. For specialist plants, abundance and species richness in disturbed plots (abundance: 46–48; species richness: 8–10) did not differ significantly from undisturbed plots (abundance: 22–27; species richness: 5–6). For one of two cases generalist plant abundance was significantly higher in disturbed (68–76) than in undisturbed plots (31–40), but in one of two cases there was no significant difference (disturbed: 45-64, undisturbed: 31-40). Species richness did not differ significantly between disturbed and undisturbed areas (disturbed: 10-12, undisturbed: 6-7). In February 2009 eighteen 150 x 4-5 m plots located within the trackways of forest stands were disturbed using cutters attached to a tractor, while the vegetation in nine plots was not disturbed. In each plot, plant species richness and abundance were recorded using twenty 1 x 1 m quadrats in May–August of 2009 and 2010. Species were classified as generalists if they were ubiquitous in forest and as generalists if likely to benefit from heathland connectivity.