Action

Remove plant litter to maintain or restore disturbance

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    35%
  • Certainty
    38%
  • Harms
    7%

Source countries

Key messages

  • Two studies evaluated the effects on peatland vegetation of removing plant litter to maintain or restore disturbance. One study was in fen meadow and one was in a fen.
  • Plant community composition (2 studies): Two replicated, controlled studies (one randomized, one paired, before-and-after) in a fen meadow in Germany and a fen in Czech Republifound that removing plant litter did not affect plant community composition.
  • Vegetation cover (1 study): One replicated, paired, controlled, before-and-after study in a fen in the Czech Republic found that removing plant litter did not affect bryophyte or tall moor grass cover.
  • Overall plant richness/diversity (2 studies): One replicated, randomized, controlled study in a fen meadow in Germany reported that removing plant litter increased plant species richness and diversity. However, one replicated, paired, controlled, before-and-after study in a fen in the Czech Republic found that removing litter did not affect vascular plant diversity.

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 replicated, randomized, controlled study in 1996–1998 in a degraded fen meadow in Germany (Jensen & Meyer 2001) reported that plots cleared of plant litter had higher plant species richness and diversity than plots where litter was not removed, but that community composition was similar under both treatments. These results are not based on tests of statistical significance. Over three years, litter-removal plots contained 18–19 plant species vs 15–16 in non-removal plots. Plant diversity was also higher in litter-removal plots (data reported as a diversity index). The overall plant community composition was initially similar in all plots, then changed over time but in a similar way in litter-removal and non-removal plots (data reported as a graphical analysis). In 1996, ten 2 m2 plots were established in an abandoned fen meadow. In May 1996, 1997 and 1998, all dead plant material was removed from five random plots. Dead plant material was left in the other five plots. Cover of every plant species was estimated annually, after litter removal, in each plot.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated, paired, controlled, before-and-after study in 2002–2007 in a degraded grassy fen in the Czech Republic (Hájkova et al. 2009) found that removing plant litter had no effect on community composition, richness of vascular plants, bryophyte cover or cover of dominant tall moor grass Molinia arundinacea. In plots where litter was removed, the overall plant community composition did not change significantly over five years (data reported as graphical analyses). There was also no change in richness of vascular plants (8–9 species/m2 across all years) and fen-characteristic vascular plants (data not reported), bryophyte cover (9–33% across all years) and moor grass cover (data not reported). These measures also remained stable in plots where litter was not removed. In May 2002, five pairs of 2.5 x 2.5 m plots were established in an abandoned fen, dominated by tall moor grass. Each May until 2007, dead plant litter was raked from one plot/pair. Plant litter was left in the other plots. Each year before litter removal, cover of every plant species was estimated in a 1 m2 quadrat in the centre of each plot.

    Study and other actions tested
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.

Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Peatland Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Peatland Conservation
Peatland Conservation

Peatland Conservation - Published 2018

Peatland Conservation

What Works in Conservation

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, terrestrial mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

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