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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Long-term heathland restoration on former grassland: The results of a 17-year experiment

Published source details

Pywell R.F., Meek W.R., Webb N.R., Putwain P.D. & Bullock J.M. (2011) Long-term heathland restoration on former grassland: The results of a 17-year experiment. Biological Conservation, 144, 1602-1609


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

Plant turf Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A randomized, controlled study in 1988–2005 in a former heathland in Dorset, UK (Pywell et al. 2011) found that planting turf from intact heathland sites increased the cover of heathland species and forbs, and reduced grass cover. After 17 years, cover of heathland species and forbs was higher in plots where turf was planted (heathland: 100%; forbs: 92%) than in plots where it was not (heathland: 16%; forbs: 27%). Grass cover was lower in plots where turf was added (10%) than in plots where it was not (59%). In 1989 turves were excavated from a nearby mature heathland site. Topsoil of three 500 m2 plots was removed and turves planted, while in three plots no turves were planted. In 2005 the cover of plants was recorded in four 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 1988–2005 in former heathland in Dorset, UK (Pywell et al 2011) found that stripping soil followed by adding topsoil from a nearby heathland increased the cover of heathland species and forbs, and reduced the cover of grasses after 17 years. The cover of heathland species and forbs was higher in plots where topsoil was added (heathland: 82%, forbs: 87%) than in plots where it was not (heathland: 16%; forbs: 27%). Grass cover was lower in plots where topsoil was added (16%) than in plots where it was not (59%). In 1989 topsoil at a nearby mature heathland site was stripped to a depth of 5 cm. Topsoil of three 500 m2 plots was removed and heathland topsoil spread, while in three plots no topsoil was spread. In 2005 the cover of plants was recorded in four 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 1988–2005 in former heathland in Dorset, UK (Pywell et al. 2011) found that spraying grass with herbicide increased the cover of heathland species, but did not reduce the cover of grasses or forbs. After 17 years, the cover of heathland species was higher in plots sprayed with herbicide (45%) than in unsprayed plots (16%). There was no significant difference in the cover of grasses or forbs in plots sprayed with herbicide (grasses: 36%, forbs: 54%) and unsprayed plots (grasses: 59%, forbs: 27%). In 1989 glyphosate herbicide was sprayed on three 500 m2 plots and three plots were not sprayed with herbicide. In 2005 the cover of plants was recorded in four 1 m2 quadrats which were randomly placed in each plot.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)

Sow seeds Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A randomized, controlled study in 1988–2005 in former heathland in Dorset, UK (Pywell et al. 2011) found that the addition of shoots and seeds from a nearby heathland increased the cover of heathland species, but did not reduce the cover of grasses or forbs. After 17 years, cover of heathland species was higher in plots where shoots and seeds were spread (44%) than in plots where they were not (16%). There was no significant difference in the cover of grasses or forbs in plots where shoots and seeds were spread (grasses: 36%, forbs: 54%) and plots where they were not (grasses: 59%, forbs: 27%). In 1989 shoots and seeds harvested from a nearby heathland were spread on three 500 m2 plots and three plots were seeded. In 2005 the cover of plants was recorded in four 1 m2 quadrats which were randomly placed in each plot.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)