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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Establishment of heathland vegetation on two abandoned fields at Stoborough Heath, Dorset, England

Published source details

Smith R.E.N., Webb N.R. & Clarke R.T. (1991) The establishment of heathland on old fields in Dorset, England. Biological Conservation, 57, 221-234


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Strip turf to control grass Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A controlled study in 1983–1989 in two former heathlands converted to grasslands in Dorset, UK (Smith et al. 1991) found that cutting and removing turf increased the number of heathland plant species in two of two cases, increased the presence of heathland plant species in seven of 16 cases, and reduced the presence of a minority of non-heathland plant species for four of 22 cases. After six years, areas where turf had been cut and removed had a higher number of heathland plant species (6–7 species) than areas where turf was not cut (5 species). Presence of heathland plant species was higher in plots where turf was cut than in plots that were uncut in seven of 16 comparisons (cut: 6–87%, uncut: 0–55%), and lower in two of 16 comparisons (cut: 6–37%, uncut: 16-68%). Presence of non-heathland plant species was higher in plots where turf had been cut than in uncut plots in four of 22 comparisons (cut: 4–79%, uncut: 0–15%), and lower in four of 22 comparisons (cut: 1-5%, uncut: 7–26%). In 1983 turf was cut and removed from five 25 m2 plots and in five plots turf was left uncut. In 1989 four 1 m2 quadrats divided into twenty-five 20 cm x 20 cm squares were placed in each plot and the presence of plant species in each square recorded.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)

Cut/mow and rotovate to control grass Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A controlled study in 1983–1989 in two former heathlands converted to grasslands in Dorset, UK (Smith et al. 1991) found that mowing followed by rotovating increased the number of heathland plant species in one of two cases, and increased the presence of heathland plant species in three of 16 comparisons, but increased the presence of non-heathland plant species for two of 22 comparisons. After six years and in one of two cases, areas that were mown and rotovated had a higher number of heathland plant species (6 species) than areas that were not mown and rotovated (5 species). Presence of heathland plant species was higher in areas that had been mown and rotovated than in areas that had not been mown and rotovated in two of 16 comparisons (cut: present in 10–56% of plots, uncut: present in 3–11% of plots). Presence of non-heathland plant species was higher in areas that had been mown and rotovated than in areas that had not been mown and rotovated in two of 22 comparisons (cut: present in 3–6% of plots, uncut: present in 2–4% of plots). In 1983 five 25 m2 plots were mown and rotovated and five plots were left unmown and unrotovated. In 1989 four 1 m2 quadrats divided into twenty-five 20 cm x 20 cm squares were placed in each plot and the presence of plant species in each square recorded.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)

Cut/mow to control grass Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A controlled study in 1983–1989 in two heathlands that had been converted to grasslands in Dorset, UK (Smith et al. 1991) found that mowing increased the number of heathland plant species in one of two cases, increased the presence of heathland plant species in one of sixteen cases, and did not alter the presence of non-heathland plant species. After six years, areas that were mown had a higher number of heathland plant species (6 species) than areas that had not been mown (5 species). However, heathland plant species only had a higher presence in mown plots (present in 55% of plots) than in unmown plots (11%) in one of sixteen comparisons. The presence of non-heathland species did not differ significantly between mown plots (present in 0–86% of plots) and unmown plots (present in 0-64% of plots). In 1983 five 25 m2 plots were mown and five plots were left unmown. In 1989 four 1 m2 quadrats divided into twenty-five 20 x 20 cm squares were placed in each plot and the presence of plant species in each square recorded.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)

Cut/mow, rotovate and sow seeds to control grass Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A controlled trial in 1983–1989 in two former heathlands converted to grasslands in Dorset, UK (Smith et al. 1991) found that mowing followed by rotovating and the spreading of clippings of heathland plants, increased the number of heathland plant species in two of two cases, and increased the presence of heathland plant species in three of 16 comparisons, but increased the presence of non-heathland plant species for two of 22 comparisons. After six years and in two of two cases, areas that had been mown, rotovated and spread with heathland clippings had a higher number of heathland plant species (4–7 species) than areas that had not been mown, rotovated, and spread with clippings (1–5 species). Presence of heathland plant species was higher in plots that were mown, rotovated and spread with heathland clippings (1–16%) than in plots that were not mown, rotovated, and spread with clippings in three of 16 comparisons (0%). Presence of non-heathland plant species was also higher in plots that were mown, rotovated and spread with heathland clippings (12%) than in plots that were not mown, rotovated, and spread with clippings in one of 22 comparisons (4%). In 1983 five 25 m2 plots were mown and rotovated and subsequently spread with clippings harvested from a nearby mature heathland and five plots were left unmown and unrotovated, and were not spread with clippings. In 1989 four 1 m2 quadrats divided into twenty-five 20 cm x 20 cm squares were placed in each plot and the presence of plant species in each square recorded.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)

Strip/disturb topsoil (alongside planting/seeding) Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A controlled study in 1983-1989 in two grasslands in Dorset, UK (Smith et al. 1991) found that mowing followed by rotovating, and the spreading of clippings of heathland plants increased the number of heathland plant species in two of two cases, and increased the presence of heathland plant species in 3 of 16 comparisons, but increased the presence of non-heathland plant species for 2 of 22 comparisons after six years. In two of two cases areas that had been mowed, rotovated and spread with heathland clippings had a higher number of heathland plant species (4-7 species) than areas that had not been mowed, rotovated, and spread with clippings (1-5 species). Presence of heathland plant species was higher in areas that had been mowed, rotovated and spread with heathland clippings than in areas that had not been mowed, rotovated, and spread with clippings in 3 of 16 comparisons (cut: present in 1-16% of plots, uncut: present in 0% of plots). Presence of non-heathland plant species was higher in areas that had been mowed, rotovated and spread with heathland clippings than in areas that had not been mowed, rotovated, and spread with clippings in 1 of 22 comparisons (cut: present in 12% of plots, uncut: present in 4% of plots). In 1983 five 25 m2 plots were mowed and rotovated and subsequently spread with clippings harvested from a mature heathland and five plots were left unmowed and unrotovated, and were not spread with clippings. In 1989 four 1 m2 quadrats divided into twenty-five 20 x 20 cm squares were placed in each plot and the presence of plant species in each square recorded.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)