Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: A comparison of techniques for restoring heathland on abandoned farmland at South Middlebere Heath, Dorset, England

Published source details

Pywell R.F., Webb N.R. & Putwain P.D. (1995) A comparison of techniques for restoring heathland on abandoned farmland. Journal of Applied Ecology, 32, 400-411


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

Spread clippings Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A randomized, controlled study in 1988–1993 in Dorset, UK (Pywell et al. 1995) found that the addition of shoots and seeds of heathland plants increased the number of seedlings for two of seven species, increased the abundance of mature plants for one of six species, but did not increase abundance of mature plants for three of six species. For two of seven heathland species the number of seedlings in plots where the shoots and seeds of heathland species were spread (14–30 seedlings/m2) was higher than in plots where the shoots and seeds of heathland species were not spread (0 seedlings/m2). The abundance of one of six heathland plant species was higher where shoots and seeds of heathland species had been spread (8.5 shoots/m2) compared to plots where shoots and seeds were not spread (0.2 shoots/m2). However, there was no significant difference in the abundance of four of six heathland plant species where heathland shoots and seeds had been spread (0–3.9 shoots/m2) when compared to areas where they were not spread (0–3.9 shoots/m2). In December 1988 shoots of heathland species were harvested from a mature heathland. In three 500 m2 plots soil was disturbed using a rotary cultivator and shoots spread at a rate of 3 kg/m2, three other plots were disturbed but had no shoots spread. In 1990–1991 the number of seedlings was recorded in seven 0.5 m x 1 m quadrats in each plot. In 1993 the number of plant shoots was recorded in three 1 m2 quadrats which were randomly placed in each plot.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)

Use herbicide to control grass Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A randomized, controlled study in 1988–1993 in former heathland in Dorset, UK (Pywell et al. 1995) found that spraying grass with herbicide did not change the number of seedlings of heathland species after one year but after three years it reduced the abundance of one of four heathland plant species and increased the abundance of one of four heathland plant species. After one year and for seven of seven heathland species, the number of seedlings in plots sprayed with herbicide (0–0.1 seedlings/m2) did not differ significantly from plots that were not sprayed with herbicide (0–0.2 seedlings/m2). After three years, the abundance of one of four heathland plant species was higher in plots that had been sprayed with herbicide (0.8 plants/m2) compared to plots that were not sprayed (0.4 plants/m2). However, the abundance of one of four heathland plant species was lower in plots that had been sprayed with herbicide (0.7 plants/m2) than in plots that had not been sprayed with herbicide (3.2 plants/m2). In 1989 glyphosate herbicide was sprayed on three 500 m2 plots at a rate of 5 litres/ha and three plots were left unsprayed. In 1990–1991 the number of seedlings was recorded in seven 0.5 m x 1 m quadrats which were placed in each plot. In 1993 the number of plant shoots was recorded in three 1 m2 quadrats which were randomly placed in each plot.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)

Add topsoil Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A randomized, controlled study in 1988–1993 in former heathland in Dorset, UK (Pywell et al. 1995) found that stripping soil followed by adding topsoil from a nearby heathland increased the number of seedlings for five of seven heathland species after one year, and increased the abundance of four of six heathland species after three years. For five of seven heathland species the number of seedlings in plots where soil was stripped and topsoil was added (1–286 seedlings/m2) was higher than in plots where soil was not stripped and topsoil was not added (0 seedlings/m2). The abundance of four of six heathland plant species was higher in plots where soil was stripped and topsoil was added (1–43 shoots/m2) compared to plots where soil was not stripped and topsoil was not added (0–4 shoots/m2). In 1989 topsoil at a nearby mature heathland site was stripped to a depth of 5 cm. Between 11 and 12 tonnes of topsoil were applied to three 500 m2 plots and mixed using a rotary cultivator and in three plots no topsoil was added. In 1990–1991 the number of seedlings was recorded in seven 0.5 m x 1 m quadrats which were placed in each plot. In 1993 the number of plant shoots was recorded in three 1 m2 quadrats which were randomly placed in each plot.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)

Plant turf Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A randomized, controlled study in 1988–1993 in a former heathland in Dorset, UK (Pywell et al. 1995) found that planting turf from intact heathland sites increased the number of seedlings for four of seven heathland species after one year, and increased the abundance of five of six heathland species after three years. For four of seven heathland species the number of seedlings in plots where turves were planted was (8–538 seedlings/m2) was higher than in plots turves were not planted (0 seedlings/m2). The abundance of five of six heathland plant species was higher in plots where turves were planted (3–90 shoots/m2) compared to plots no turves were planted (0–4 shoots/m2). In 1989 turves measuring 1.2 m x 2.3 m x 0.15 m were excavated from a nearby mature heathland site and transported to the restoration site. In three 500 m2 plots soil was stripped to a depth of 15 cm and turves planted and in three plots no turves were planted. In 1990–1991 the number of seedlings was recorded in seven 0.5 m x 1 m quadrats which were placed in each plot. In 1993 the number of plant shoots was recorded in three 1 m2 quadrats which were randomly placed in each plot.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)