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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Cover peatland with something other than mulch (without planting) Peatland Conservation

Key messages

Read our guidance on Key messages before continuing

  • Two studies evaluated the effects, on peatland vegetation, of covering a peatland with something other than mulch (without planting). Both studies were in bogs.
  • Vegetation cover (2 studies): One replicated, controlled, before-and-after study in a bog in Germany reported that covering bare peat with fleece or fibre mats did not affect the number of seedlings of five herb/shrub species. One replicated, controlled, before-and-after study in bogs in Australia reported that recently-burned plots shaded with plastic mesh developed greater cover of native plants, forbs and Sphagnum moss than unshaded plots.

Supporting evidence from individual studies


A replicated, controlled, before-and-after study in 1993–1995 in a historically mined raised bog in Germany (Sliva et al. 1999) reported that covering plots with fleece or fibre mat did not affect seedling numbers for five plant species. These results were not tested for statistical significance. After 1–2 years, covered and uncovered plots contained a similar number of seedlings. There were 3 seedlings/400 cm2 for purple moor grass Molinia caerulea. There was <1 seedling/400 cm2 for four other species: beaked sedge Carex rostrata, common cottongrass Eriophorum angustifolium, sheathed cottongrass Eriophorum vaginatum and heather Calluna vulgaris. In autumn 1993, fifteen 1 m2 plots were established on bare rewetted peat (mined until 1986). Five plots were covered with synthetic fleece, five were covered with wide-meshed jute fibre mat and five were not covered. No seeds were added to these plots. Covers were removed and seedlings counted in summer 1994 (two plots/treatment) and 1995 (three plots/treatment).


A replicated, controlled, before-and-after study in 2003–2007 in two in Australia (Whinam et al. 2010) found that plots shaded with plastic mesh developed greater vegetation cover than unshaded plots. After 40 months, shaded plots had significantly greater cover of native plants in general, and of forbs, than unshaded plots (data not reported). Sphagnum moss cover was 10% in shaded plots compared to 8% in unshaded plots (difference not tested for statistical significance). Immediately before shading, plots had 3% Sphagnum cover on average. In January 2003, the focal bogs were burned by a wild fire. In October 2003, ten burned plots (3 x 15 m; five plots/bog) were shaded with plastic mesh (blocking 70% of incoming light). Fifteen additional plots were left uncovered. Vegetation cover was recorded in 0.25 m2 quadrats: five/bog in October 2003, and one/plot in March 2007.

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.