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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Post-burn bracken Pteridium aquilinum control to manage habitat for the heath fritillary butterfly Mellicta athalia on Exmoor, Somerset, England

Published source details

Brook S., McCracken M. & Bulman C.R. (2007) Post-burn bracken Pteridium aquilinum control to manage habitat for the heath fritillary butterfly Mellicta athalia on Exmoor, Somerset, England. Conservation Evidence, 4, 81-87


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

Use herbicide to control bracken Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A controlled study in 2002–2007 in a heathland in Exmoor, UK (Brook et al. 2007) found that using herbicide to control bracken Pteridium aquilinum increased the cover of gorse Ulex europaeus and the abundance of common cow-wheat Melampyrum pratense, but did not decrease the abundance of bracken. After five years, gorse cover was higher in areas treated with herbicide (42%) than in untreated areas (21%). There were more cow-wheat plants in plots treated with herbicide (0.7) than in untreated plots (0.4). Additionally, after five years, bracken abundance in plots that had been treated with herbicide (5) was not significantly different to that in untreated plots (7). In 2002 the herbicide asulox was applied in six 40 m x 20 m with a further six plots remaining unsprayed. Abundance and cover of plants was recorded in 30 randomly placed quadrats in each plot.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)

Cut to control bracken Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A controlled study in a heathland in 2002–2007 in the United Kingdom (Brook et al. 2007) found that using cutting to control bracken Pteridium aquilinum did not increase the abundance of gorse Ulex europaeus or of common cow-wheat Melampyrum pratense or decrease the abundance of bracken. After five years, gorse cover was not significantly different in areas where bracken had been cut (26%) compared to where it had not been cut (21%). The abundance of common cow-wheat and bracken in areas where bracken had been cut (cow-wheat: 3 plants/quadrat; bracken: 12 bracken stems/quadrat) was not significantly different to that where bracken had not been cut (cow-wheat: 0.4 plants/quadrat; bracken: 7 bracken stems/quadrat). In 2002–2005 bracken was cut in six 40 m x 20 m plots with a further six plots remaining uncut. Abundance and cover of plants was recorded every year in thirty 1 m2 quadrats randomly placed in each plot.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)