Conservation Evidence strives to be as useful to conservationists as possible. Please take our survey to help the team improve our resource.

Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Long-term effects of rotational prescribed burning and low-intensity sheep grazing on blanket-bog plant communities

Published source details

Lee H., Alday J.G. , Rose R.J., O'Reilly J. & Marrs R.H. (2013) Long-term effects of rotational prescribed burning and low-intensity sheep grazing on blanket-bog plant communities. Journal of Applied Ecology, 50, 625-635


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

Use prescribed fire to control problematic plants Peatland Conservation

A replicated, randomized, paired, controlled study in 1954–2001 in a blanket bog in England, UK (Lee et al. 2013) found that repeated burning prevented development of heather-dominated vegetation and increased Sphagnum moss cover (with a short time between burns) but reduced total plant species richness. At first measurement in 1972, all plots had similar liverwort-rich vegetation. After 29 years, burned plots had greater cover of cottongrasses Eriophorum spp. than unburned plots, but less cover of heather Calluna vulgaris (data reported as graphical analyses). Averaged over the entire experimental period, plots burned every 10 years (but not plots burned every 20 years) had greater cover of Sphagnum moss than unburned plots (data not reported). There were significantly fewer plant species in burned plots (15.5–16.6/plot) than in unburned plots (17.3/plot). The effects of burning were similar in grazed and ungrazed plots. In 1954–1955, four 60 x 90 m areas were burned in a historically grazed bog. Within each area, two random plots were left unburned for the rest of the study period, two plots were burned every 10 years, and two plots burned every 20 years. Under each treatment, half of the plots were grazed by sheep. Vegetation cover was measured in 1972, 1982, 1991 and 2001 by recording, in each plot, plants touching 100 randomly placed pins. This study was based on the same experimental set-up as (1), (2) and (4).

(Summarised by Nigel Taylor)

Exclude or remove livestock from degraded peatlands Peatland Conservation

A replicated, randomized, paired, controlled study in 1954–2001 in a grazed and recently burned blanket bog in England, UK (Lee et al. 2013) found that excluding sheep had no effect on plant community composition, cover and species richness. Between 1972 and 2001, the overall plant community composition changed in both grazed and ungrazed areas, from liverwort-rich to heather- or cottongrass-rich (depending on whether they were also burned). However, community development was not significantly affected by grazing (data reported as graphical analyses). Over the experimental period, exclusion and grazed plots contained a similar number of plant species and Sphagnum moss species, and similar cover of heather Calluna vulgaris and cottongrasses Eriophorum spp. (amongst other species; data not reported). In 1954, four 60 x 90 m areas of a grazed bog received an initial burn. Then, sheep were excluded from half of each area whilst the other half remained open to grazing (0.1–0.3 sheep/ha). Of three plots within each grazed and ungrazed area, two were burned again during the study period (every 10 or 20 years). Vegetation cover was measured in 1972, 1982, 1991 and 2001 by recording, in each area, plants touching 300 randomly placed pins. This study was based on the same experimental set-up as (2) and (7).

(Summarised by Nigel Taylor)