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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Control of bracken and the restoration of heathland. I. Control of bracken

Published source details

Lowday J.E. & Marrs R.H. (1992) Control of bracken and the restoration of heathland. I. Control of bracken. Journal of Applied Ecology, 29, 195-203


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

Cut and apply herbicide to control bracken Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A randomized, controlled study in 1978–1990 in a heathland in Suffolk, UK (Lowday & Marrs 1992) found that spraying with herbicide, followed by annual cutting, reduced the biomass of bracken Pteridium aquilinum, but did not increase heather Calluna vulgaris biomass. After 12 year, bracken biomass was 82–99% lower in areas where bracken had been cut and sprayed with herbicide, than in areas that were not cut or sprayed. In two of nine years heather biomass was higher in areas that had been sprayed with herbicide and cut annually, than in areas that were not sprayed with herbicide and not cut (data presented in log units). In 1978 twelve 18 m2 plots were established. In four plots bracken was sprayed with the herbicide asulam (application rate: 4.4 kg active ingredient/ha) and cut annually in 1978–1990, and in four plots bracken was not cut or sprayed with herbicide. Vegetation cover was assessed every year in three 1 m2 plots which were randomly located in each plot. Vegetation was cut in one 20 cm x 20 cm area in each quadrat and dried to calculate biomass.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)

Cut to control bracken Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A randomized, controlled study in 1978–1990 in a heathland in Suffolk, UK (Lowday & Marrs 1992) found that annual cutting of bracken Pteridium aquilinum increased the biomass of heather Calluna vulgaris and reduced the biomass of bracken  after 12 years. In two of seven years heather biomass was higher in areas that had been cut than in areas that were not cut (data presented in log units), but heather biomass was not significantly higher in the remaining five years. In six of seven years bracken biomass was 14–99% lower in areas where bracken had been cut, than in areas that were not cut. In 1978 twelve 18 m2 plots were established. In four plots bracken was cut annually in 1978–1990, in four plots bracken was cut twice a year in 1978–1990, and in four plots bracken was not cut. Vegetation cover was assessed every year in three 1 m2 plots which were randomly located in each plot. Vegetation was cut in 20 cm x 20 cm areas in each quadrat and dried to calculate biomass.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)

Use herbicide to control bracken Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A randomized, controlled study in 1978–1990 in a heathland in Suffolk, UK (Lowday & Marrs 1992) found that application of herbicide reduced the biomass of bracken Pteridium aquilinum, and increased heather biomass. After 12 years, biomass of bracken was 76–85% lower in areas where bracken had been sprayed with herbicide, than in unsprayed areas. Heather vegetation biomass was higher in areas that were sprayed with herbicide than in areas that were not sprayed (data presented in log units). In 1978 twelve 18 m2 plots were established. In four plots bracken was sprayed with the herbicide asulam in 1978, four plots were sprayed with asulam in 1978 and 1979, and in four plots were not sprayed. Vegetation cover was assessed every year in three 1 m2 plots which were randomly located in each plot. Heath vegetation was cut in 20 cm x 20 cm areas in each quadrat and dried to allow biomass to be calculated.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)