Study

Physical disturbance enhances ecological networks for heathland biota: a multiple taxa experiment

  • Published source details Pedley S.M., Franco A.M.A., Pankhurst T. & Dolman P.M. (2013) Physical disturbance enhances ecological networks for heathland biota: a multiple taxa experiment. Biological Conservation, 160, 173-182.

Actions

This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Disturb topsoil

Action Link
Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

Disturb vegetation

Action Link
Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

Strip topsoil

Action Link
Shrubland and Heathland Conservation
  1. Disturb topsoil

    A randomized, replicated, controlled study in 2009–2010 in heathland in Breckland, UK (1) found that soil disturbance by disking increased the abundance and species richness of both specialist and generalist plants between three and six months after treatment but only increased the abundance of generalists one year after treatment. Between three and six months after disking, abundance and species richness of specialists and generalists was higher in disked (abundance: 91; species richness: 18, respectively for specialist and generalist plants) than in untreated plots (abundance: 40; species richness: 7, respectively for specialist and generalist plants). However, one year after treatment, abundance of generalist plants was higher in disked (75) than in untreated plots (31) but neither the abundance of specialist plants nor the species richness of generalist or specialist plants differ significantly between treated and untreated plots (abundance of specialists: 57 vs 27; species richness of generalists: 11 vs 6; species richness of specialists: 9 vs 5, respectively for treated and untreated plots). Disking using a tractor-pulled disc harrow which disrupted the vegetation while provoking shallow soil disturbance was conducted in nine 150 m x 4–5 m plots located in trackways within forest stands in February 2009. Nine plots were left untreated. At each plot, plant species richness and abundance were recorded using twenty 1 m x 1 m quadrats between May and August of both 2009 and 2010. Species were classified as generalists if ubiquitous in forest and as generalists if likely to benefit from heathland connectivity.

    (Summarised by: Phil Martin)

  2. Disturb vegetation

    A randomized, replicated, controlled study in 2009–2010 in heathland in Breckland, UK (Pedley et al. 2013) found that vegetation disturbance did not increase the abundance or species richness of specialist plants but increased the abundance of generalist plants. For specialist plants, abundance and species richness in disturbed plots (abundance: 46–48; species richness: 8–10) did not differ significantly from undisturbed plots (abundance: 22–27; species richness: 5–6). For one of two cases generalist plant abundance was significantly higher in disturbed (68–76) than in undisturbed plots (31–40), but in one of two cases there was no significant difference (disturbed: 45-64, undisturbed: 31-40). Species richness did not differ significantly between disturbed and undisturbed areas (disturbed: 10-12, undisturbed: 6-7). In February 2009 eighteen 150 x 4-5 m plots located within the trackways of forest stands were disturbed using cutters attached to a tractor, while the vegetation in nine plots was not disturbed. In each plot, plant species richness and abundance were recorded using twenty 1  x 1 m quadrats in May–August of 2009 and 2010. Species were classified as generalists if they were ubiquitous in forest and as generalists if likely to benefit from heathland connectivity.

    (Summarised by: Phil Martin)

  3. Strip topsoil

    A randomized, replicated, controlled study in 2009–2010 in heathland in Breckland, UK (Pedley et al. 2013) found that stripping of top soil increased the abundance of generalist plants in six out of six comparisons, the abundance of specialist plants in five out of six comparisons but only increased the species richness of specialist plants in two out of six comparisons. For generalist plants, abundance was higher in stripped (50–76) than in unstripped plots (31–40) in six out of six comparisons but species richness did not differ significantly between stripped (9–14) and unstripped plots (6–7). For specialist plants, abundance was higher in stripped (62–83) than in unstripped plots (22–27) in five out of six comparisons but species richness was only higher in stripped (11–12) than in unstripped plots (5–6) in two out of six comparisons. In nine plots soil and litter were inverted in plough lines that alternated with 30–40 cm strips of intact vegetation, in another nine plots turf and top-soil were inverted and biomass was retained and buried and in nine plots more vegetation, root mat, litter and organic soil were removed. Nine plots were left untreated. At each plot, plant species richness and abundance were recorded using twenty 1 m x 1 m quadrats between May and August of both 2009 and 2010. Species were classified as generalists if ubiquitous in forest and as generalists if likely to benefit from heathland connectivity.

    (Summarised by: Phil Martin)

Output references
What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 18

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.


Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape Programme Red List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Bern wood Supporting Conservation Leaders National Biodiversity Network Sustainability Dashboard Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx British trust for ornithology Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Butterfly Conservation People trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust