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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Control of bracken and restoration of heathland. VIII. The regeneration of the heathland community after 18 years of continued bracken control or 6 years of control followed by recovery

Published source details

Marrs R.H., Johnson S.W. & Le Duc M.G. (1998) Control of bracken and restoration of heathland. VIII. The regeneration of the heathland community after 18 years of continued bracken control or 6 years of control followed by recovery. Journal of Applied Ecology, 35, 857-870


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

Cut to control bracken Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A randomized, replicated, controlled study in 1978–1996 in heathland invaded by bracken Pteridium aquilinum in Suffolk, UK (Marrs et al. 1998) found that repeatedly cutting bracken did not increase heather Calluna vulgaris cover, but did increase cover of wavy hair-grass Deschampsia flexuosa and sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina. After 10 years and in one of four cases, areas where bracken was cut had higher cover of heather (38%) than where bracken was not cut (0%), but after 18 years heather cover in cut plots was 0%. Cover of wavy-hair grass and sheep’s fescue was higher in two of four cases after 18 years where bracken was cut (wavy hair-grass: 30%; sheep’s fescue: 17%) than where it was not (wavy hair-grass: 0%; sheep’s fescue: 0%). In 1978 twelve 70 m2 plots were established. Between 1978 and 1996 bracken was cut once a year in four plots, twice a year in four plots, and four other plots were never cut. Vegetation cover in plots was surveyed annually using three quadrats in each plot in 1978–1996.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)

Use herbicide to control bracken Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A randomized, controlled study in 1978–1996 in heathland invaded by bracken Pteridium aquilinum in Suffolk, UK (Marrs et al. 1998) found that spraying with herbicide did not increase heather Calluna vulgaris cover, but did increase cover of wavy hair-grass Deschampsia flexuosa and sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina. After 10 years and in two of four cases, heather cover was higher in areas where bracken was sprayed with herbicide (22–28%) than in unsprayed areas (0%), but after 18 years the cover of heather in all plots declined to 0%. After 18 years, cover of wavy-hair grass and sheep’s fescue was higher in one of four cases where bracken was sprayed (wavy hair-grass: 9%; sheep’s fescue: 17%) than where it was not (wavy hair-grass: 0%; sheep’s fescue: 0%). In 1978 twelve 70 m2 plots were established. In 1978-1996 bracken was sprayed with asulam in eight plots, and four other plots were not sprayed. The vegetation cover in three quadrats/plot was surveyed every year in 1978-1996.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)