Vegetation response to the reintroduction of cattle grazing on an English lowland valley mire and wet heath

  • Published source details Groome G.M. & Shaw P. (2015) Vegetation response to the reintroduction of cattle grazing on an English lowland valley mire and wet heath. Conservation Evidence, 12, 33-39.


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Use grazing to maintain or restore disturbance

Action Link
Peatland Conservation

Use fences to exclude livestock from shrublands

Action Link
Shrubland and Heathland Conservation
  1. Use grazing to maintain or restore disturbance

    A controlled, before-and-after study in 2003–2012 in a historically grazed and recently burned fen in England, UK (Groome & Shaw 2015) found that grazing increased plant species richness, but reduced total vegetation cover and had mixed effects on cover of individual plant groups. Over nine years, grazed plots experienced a greater increase in plant species richness, but a smaller increase in total vegetation cover, than ungrazed plots (data not reported). For some vegetation, such as common cottongrass Eriophorum angustifolium and carnation sedge Carex panicea, cover increased more in grazed than ungrazed plots. For other vegetation, cover increased less in grazed plots. This included soft bog moss Sphagnum tenellum (data not reported), purple moor grass Molinia caerulea (before: 14–48%; grazed after: 14–43%; ungrazed after: 15–64%) and dwarf shrubs (before: 3–8%; grazed after: 22–37%; ungrazed after: 33–53%). In summer 2003, cover of every plant species was estimated in 174 permanent 1 m2 quadrats across the fen. From 2005, summer-autumn cattle grazing was reinstated (see original paper for details) except in three fenced exclosures. In 2010 and 2012, vegetation cover was re-surveyed in the quadrats (116 grazed, 58 ungrazed).

    (Summarised by: Nigel Taylor)

  2. Use fences to exclude livestock from shrublands

    A controlled, before-and-after trial in 2003–2012 in a heathland previously affected by fire in Surrey, UK (Groome & Shaw 2015) found that cover of dwarf shrubs increased more over nine years in fenced areas than in unfenced areas, but that cover of purple-moor grass Molinia caerulea remained similar in fenced and unfenced areas. Before fencing, the cover of dwarf shrubs was similar in areas that were subsequently fenced (4–8% cover) and unfenced (5–8% cover). However, after nine years fenced areas had higher cover of dwarf shrubs (38–54%) than unfenced areas (27–36%). Before fencing, cover of purple moor grass was also not significantly different between areas that were subsequently fenced (11–47%) and those that were unfenced (19–45%) and this remained the case nine years after fencing (fenced: 12–63% cover; unfenced: 16–42% cover). The entire heathland was burned by wildfire in 2003. Cattle were introduced to the area in 2005, but three areas were fenced to exclude cattle. In 2003, 2010, and 2012 vegetation cover was recorded in fifty-eight 1 m2 quadrats placed in the fenced area and 116 quadrats in the unfenced area.

    (Summarised by: Phil Martin)

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