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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Topsoil removal to restore vegetation in degraded rich fens

Published source details

Emsens W.-J., Aggenbach C.J.S., Smolders A.J.P. & Van Diggelen R. (2015) Topsoil removal in degraded rich fens: can we force an ecosystem reset? Ecological Engineering, 77, 223-232


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

Remove upper layer of peat/soil (without planting) Peatland Conservation

A replicated site comparison study in 2013 in six degraded rich fens in Belgium and the Netherlands (Emsens et al. 2015) found that plots stripped of surface peat contained significantly less herb biomass than unstripped plots after 3–18 years, but had significantly greater bryophyte cover and plant species richness (data not reported). The higher species richness in stripped plots applied to both the total number of plant species and the number of fen-characteristic plant species. The differences in herb biomass and species richness were consistent in all eight sites. In June 2003, vegetation cover was recorded in eight 2 x 2 m quadrats/fen: four quadrats in an area stripped of surface peat and four in an unstripped area. In the stripped areas, 15–30 cm of peat had been removed (leaving some peat below) 3–18 years previously. Historically, all eight fens were drained and used for agriculture. Two had since been rewetted.

(Summarised by Nigel Taylor)