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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Overcoming resistance and resilience of an invaded community is necessary for effective restoration: a multi-site bracken control study

Published source details

Alday J.G. , Cox E.S., Pakeman R.J., Harris M.P.K., LeDuc M.G. & Marrs R.H. (2013) Overcoming resistance and resilience of an invaded community is necessary for effective restoration: a multi-site bracken control study. Journal of Applied Ecology, 50, 156-167


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 replicated, randomized, controlled study in 1993–2003 in three heathland sites in Cannock and the Peak District, UK (Alday et al. 2013) found that cutting bracken Pteridium aquilinum and then spraying asulam increased heathland species richness but spraying asulam and then cutting did not. In plots where bracken was cut and then asulam was applied, species richness was higher ten years after treatment (5.2–8.1) than after one year 4–6.3). However, in plots where bracken was first sprayed and then cut, species richness was lower ten years after treatment (3.1–5.5) than after one year (3.6–6.1). Over the same period species richness decreased in untreated plots (one year after: 3.2–4.9; 10 years after: 2.6–3.9) (data presented as model results). Ten years after treatment, species composition in plots where bracken had been treated was not significantly different from untreated plots (data presented as ordination results). Between six and eighteen 10 x 12 m and 10 x 5 m plots were selected and cutting of bracken and application of herbicide took place between June and August 1993. In one site treatments were repeated in August 1999. Vegetation was monitored annually in June using 1 x 1 m quadrats.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)

Use herbicide to control bracken Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 1993–2003 in three heathland sites in Cannock and the Peak District, UK (Alday et al. 2013) found that spraying bracken Pteridium aquilinum with the herbicide asulam increased heathland species richness. In plots where asulam was applied, species richness was higher ten years after herbicide spraying (4.9–7.6) than one year after spraying (4.5–7.1). However, over the same period species richness decreased in unsprayed plots (one year after: 3.2–4.9; 10 years after: 2.6–3.9) (data presented as model results). Ten years after treatment, species composition in sprayed and unsprayed plots did not differ significantly from unsprayed plots (data presented as ordination results). Between four and twelve 10 x 12 m and 10 x 5 m plots were selected and the herbicide asulam was sprayed in August 2003. Vegetation was monitored annually in June using 1 x 1 m quadrats.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)

Cut to control bracken Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 1993–2003 in four heathland sites in Cannock and the Peak District, UK (Alday et al. 2013) found that cutting of bracken Pteridium aquilinum increased heathland species richness and moved heathland species composition towards pre-invasion conditions. In both plots where bracken was cut once and twice per year, species richness was higher ten years after cutting (bracken cut once a year: 6.5–9.8; bracken cut twice a year: 6.8–10.1) than one year after cutting (bracken cut once a year: 4.3–6.2; bracken cut twice a year: 3.7–6.7). However, over the same period species richness decreased in uncut plots (one year after: 3.2–4.9; 10 years after: 2.6–3.9) (data presented as model results). Ten years after treatment, species composition in plots where bracken was cut was significantly different from uncut plots and closer to pre-invasion conditions (data presented as ordination results). Between four and twelve plots measuring 10 x 12 m, 10 x 5 m and 6 x 5 m were selected and bracken was cut once a year in June in three of four sites, and twice a year (June and August) in all four. Vegetation was monitored annually in June using 1 x 1 m quadrats.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)