Conservation Evidence strives to be as useful to conservationists as possible. Please take our survey to help the team improve our resource.

Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: The Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) scheme in Northern Ireland: ten years of agri-environment monitoring

Published source details

McEvoy P.M., Flexen M. & McAdam J.H. (2006) The Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) scheme in Northern Ireland: ten years of agri-environment monitoring. Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Section B, 106, 413-423


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

Manage heather by swiping to simulate burning Farmland Conservation

A replicated, controlled trial in Northern Ireland (McEvoy et al. 2006) found that heather moorland plots subject to flailing to simulate burning in 1996 had more plant species in 2004, eight years after management, than control unmanaged plots but fewer species than burned plots. Flailed plots had 26 species/site on average (average of 13 moss and liverwort species (bryophytes)), compared to 28 species/site on average on burned plots (average of 15 moss and liverwort species) and 20 species/site on control plots (10 moss and liverwort species). One year after the management, in 1997, both flailed and control plots had 23 plant species (11 moss and liverwort species) on average. The cover by mosses and liverworts increased significantly between 1997 and 2004 on flailed sites and on burned sites (numbers not given). Flailed sites had lower cover of heather Calluna vulgaris in 2004 than eight burned sites in the same study (about 30% compared to 35% heather cover). Six sites managed by flailing in 1996 to stimulate heather regeneration were surveyed in 1997 and again in 2004. Plants were surveyed in four 4 m2 quadrats per site. Adjacent unmanaged control areas were surveyed at each site.

Manage heather, gorse or grass by burning Farmland Conservation

A replicated, controlled trial in Northern Ireland (McEvoy et al. 2006) found that heather moorland plots subject to burning in 1996 had more plant species in 2004, eight years after management, than control unmanaged plots. Burned plots had 28 species/site on average (average of 15 moss and liverwort species), and control plots had 24 species/site (10 moss and liverwort species). One year after the management, in 1997, both burned and control plots had had 22 plant species (8-10 moss and liverwort species) on average. The cover by mosses and liverworts increased significantly between 1997 and 2004 on burned sites (numbers not given). Burned sites had higher cover of heather in 2004 than six flailed sites in the same study (about 35% compared to 30% heather Calluna vulgaris cover). Eight sites burned in 1996 to stimulate heather regeneration were surveyed in 1997 and again in 2004. Plants were surveyed in four 4 m2 quadrats per site. Adjacent unburned control areas were surveyed at each site.

 

Maintain upland heath/moorland Farmland Conservation

A replicated before-and-after trial in Northern Ireland (McEvoy et al. 2006) found that the number of plant species on heather Calluna vulgaris moorland managed under the Environmentally Sensitive Area scheme was maintained in two of three areas for which results were reported. Average cover of heather increased in one of the five Environmentally Sensitive Areas (13 sites in West Fermanagh) but did not change at two others (43 sites in the Sperrins Environmentally Sensitive Area, 6 sites in the Antrim Coast Environmentally Sensitive Area). The number of plant species on heather moorland was maintained at these two Environmentally Sensitive Areas but declined between 1994 and 2004 in the Slieve Gullion Environmentally Sensitive Area (13 sites). Values are not given for heather cover or numbers of plant species on heather moorland. The study monitored plant diversity at 93 heather moorland sites in Northern Ireland, first in 1993-1994 before the Environmentally Sensitive Area management began, and again 10 years later. The sites were randomly selected from a database of farmers joining the Environmentally Sensitive Area scheme in 1993.

 

Pay farmers to cover the cost of conservation measures (as in agri-environment schemes) Farmland Conservation

A replicated before-and-after trial in Northern Ireland (McEvoy et al. 2006) (same study as (McAdam et al. 2005)) found that the number of plant species on land managed under the Environmentally Sensitive Area scheme over ten years was maintained but not enhanced on grasslands, and maintained in heather moorland in two of three areas for which results were reported. The number of higher plant species did not increase between 1993 and 2003 in the Environmentally Sensitive Area grassland sites, which were all in the West Fermanagh Environmentally Sensitive Area (33-41 species/transect). In heather moorland, average cover of heather increased in one of the five Environmentally Sensitive Areas (13 sites in West Fermanagh), but did not change at two others (43 sites in Sperrins Environmentally Sensitive Area, 6 sites in Antrim Coast Environmentally Sensitive Area). The number of plant species on heather moorland was maintained at these two Environmentally Sensitive Areas but declined between 1994 and 2004 in the Slieve Gullion Environmentally Sensitive Area (13 sites). Values are not given for heather cover or numbers of plant species on heather moorland. The study monitored plant diversity at 63 grassland sites and 93 heather moorland sites, first in 1993-1994 before the Environmentally Sensitive Area management began and again 10 years later. The sites were randomly selected from a database of farmers joining the Environmentally Sensitive Area scheme in 1993.