Background information and definitions
Reedbeds were traditionally cut in much of Europe to provide thatch for housing and this practice continues in some countries. Cutting reeds like this changes the composition of the reedbeds, resulting in higher spring water levels and higher reed biomass (due to increased regrowth) than in uncut reedbeds (Poulin & Lefebvre 2002). A comparison of cut and uncut reedbeds in southern France found that there was also a higher abundance of food arthropods in cut reeds, although lower abundances of birds in summer (Poulin & Lefebvre 2002).
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A site comparison study in two wetland sites in Vejlerne, a wetland in North Jutland, Denmark (Kristiansen 1998), found that the highest densities of greylag geese Anser anser nests were found in reedbeds that were cut between five and eleven or five and 12 years before (3.1-3.4 nests/ha). No nests were found in beds cut that year and very few (and only in one site) in beds cut less than three years (fewer than 0.7 nests/ha) or more than eleven years before. The authors speculate that geese need an intermediate density of reed stems to nest effectively.Study and other actions tested
A controlled study in 1993-1995 in an area of peat marsh in Overijssel, the Netherlands (Graveland 1999), found that reed warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus and sedge warblers A. schoenobaenus nested at significantly lower densities in areas of recently cut reedbed, compared to uncut areas (reed warblers: 0.8 nests/100 m of shore for cut areas vs. 2.0 nests/100 m for uncut; sedge warblers: 0.03 nests/100 m vs. 0.7 nests/100 m). There were no significant difference in the fledging success of unpredated nests in cut and uncut reed, but nest predation of reed warblers was higher in cut reed (33% predated in cut areas vs. 17% in uncut areas). There was no difference for sedge warblers (73% vs. 43%).Study and other actions tested
A replicated study in 1997-2001 in ten reedbed sites across England (Gilbert et al. 2007) investigated the impact of raising water levels in reedbeds on great bittern Botaurus stellaris breeding (see ‘Manage water levels in wetlands’). Reeds at sites with low water levels were cut in spring (March-April), compared with winter (completed by December) for high water level sites, but the effect of cutting was not specifically investigated. Male bitterns at low-water sites established territories later than on high-water sites, but sites did not differ in productivity.Study and other actions tested