Disturb vegetation

How is the evidence assessed?

Study locations

Key messages

  • 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.

About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. 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.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Martin, P.A., Rocha, R., Smith, R.K. & Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Shrubland and Heathland Conservation. Pages 483-525 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Shrubland and Heathland Conservation
Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

Shrubland and Heathland Conservation - Published 2017

Shrubland and Heathland synopsis

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What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

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