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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Reduce intensity of livestock grazing Peatland Conservation

Key messages

Read our guidance on Key messages before continuing

  • One study evaluated the effects on peatland vegetation of reducing livestock grazing intensity. This study was in bogs.
  • Vegetation cover (1 study): One replicated, paired, controlled study in bogs in the UK found that total vegetation and shrub cover were greater where grazing intensity was lower. Cottongrass cover was greater where grazing intensity was lower (one species) or unaffected by grazing intensity (one species).
  • Vegetation structure (1 study): The same study found that vegetation biomass was higher where grazing intensity was lower.

Supporting evidence from individual studies


A replicated, paired, controlled study in 1971–1982 in three recently burned blanket bogs in Scotland, UK (Grant et al. 1985) found that plots under lower grazing intensities had greater vegetation biomass and cover than more heavily grazed plots. After six years, vascular plant above-ground biomass was greater in lightly/moderately grazed plots (550–557 g/m2) than in heavily grazed plots (346 g/m2). After 11 years, the lightly/moderately grazed plots also had greater total vegetation cover (light: 81%; moderate: 69%; heavy: 48%), shrub cover (light: 13–53%; moderate: 9–38%; heavy: 8–26%) and sheathed cottongrass Eriophorum vaginatum cover (light: 15%; moderate: 11%; heavy: 6%). Cover of common cottongrass Eriophorum angustifolium was similar under all grazing intensities (data not reported). From August 1971, one 0.1 ha plot/bog was grazed under each intensity: light (136–237 sheep grazing days/ha/yr), moderate (296–494) or heavy (484–810). Between 1971 and 1980, dry above-ground biomass was measured in ten quadrats (approximately 25 x 50 cm) per plot. In 1972 and 1982, vegetation cover was measured in 20 point quadrats/plot.

Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Taylor N.G., Grillas P. & Sutherland W.J. (2019) Peatland Conservation. Pages 375-438 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.