Effects of late summer cattle-grazing on the diversity of upland pasture vegetation in an upland conifer forest in Strathrory Glen, Easter Ross, Scotland

  • Published source details Humphrey J.W. & Patterson G.S. (2000) Effects of late summer cattle-grazing on the diversity of upland pasture vegetation in an upland conifer forest in Strathrory Glen, Easter Ross, Scotland. Journal of Applied Ecology, 37, 986-996.


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Use grazing to maintain or restore disturbance: freshwater marshes

Action Link
Marsh and Swamp Conservation

Restore/create species-rich, semi-natural grassland

Action Link
Farmland Conservation
  1. Use grazing to maintain or restore disturbance: freshwater marshes

    A replicated, randomized, paired, controlled, before-and-after study in 1988–1997 in wet grassland and flush vegetation in Scotland, UK (Humphrey & Patterson 2000) found that restarting cattle grazing had no clear effect on plant community composition, and typically had no significant effect on plant species richness, cover or height. After nine years and within each vegetation type, the overall plant community composition was similar in grazed and exclusion plots (data reported as a graphical analysis; statistical significance of differences not assessed). Total plant species richness declined within each vegetation type, but by a statistically similar amount in grazed plots (1–5 fewer species/2 m2 after nine years of grazing than before) and exclusion plots (6–8 fewer species/2 m2). Changes in cover of key plant groups were also statistically similar in grazed and exclusion plots (forbs: 6–21% decline; grass-like plants: 34–63% decline; bryophytes: 9% increase or 6–11% decline). Over the first four years of study, maximum vegetation height was statistically similar in grazed and exclusion plots in five of six comparisons (for which grazed: 24–90 cm; exclusion: 35–92 cm). Methods: Four pairs of 100-m2 plots were established in each of two vegetation types: a rush-dominated wet grassland and a seepage flush. Annual summer cattle grazing (2.2–2.4 cattle/ha in the wetlands and surrounding grassland) was restarted in August 1988, after a 10-year hiatus. However, one random plot/pair was fenced to exclude cattle. Wild roe deer Capreolus capreolus could access the whole site, including fenced plots. In summer 1988 (before cattle reintroduction), 1991 and 1997, plant species and vegetation cover were recorded in 1–4 permanent 2-m2 quadrats/plot. In autumn 1988, 1989 and 1991, the tallest plant shoot was measured in eighty 400-cm2 quadrats/plot.

    (Summarised by: Nigel Taylor)

  2. Restore/create species-rich, semi-natural grassland

    A replicated, controlled study in 1988-1997 in temperate grassland and seasonal freshwater marshes in Strathrory Glen, northeast UK (Humphrey & Patterson 2000) found that cattle grazing at a stocking rate of 2.2-2.5/ha prevented further decline in plant species richness, but did not promote recovery. In grazed plots, overall species richness remained static and moss/liverwort richness increased, whilst in control plots species richness declined. However, cattle grazing had no effect on species cover and plants of conservation importance showed no increase. The study used four plots in each of three different vegetation types: acid grassland, rush pasture and vegetation associated with calcareous springs (seepage flush). Each plot had two 10 x 10 m subplots, one of which was fenced to exclude cattle. Sampling was carried out in 1988 before the start of grazing, and again in 1991 and 1997, using four permanent 2 x 1 m quadrats within a central 7 x 7 m area in each plot.


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