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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Long-term (1978-2003) effects of an extensive grazing regime on plant species composition of a heathland reserve

Published source details

Piessens K., Aerts N. & Hermy M. (2006) Long-term (1978-2003) effects of an extensive grazing regime on plant species composition of a heathland reserve. Belgian Journal of Botany, 49-64


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Increase number of livestock Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A replicated, before-and-after trial in 1978–2003 in dry, wet and moist heathland habitat in Flanders, Belgium (Piessens et al. 2006) found that extensive grazing increased vegetation cover of heather Calluna vulgaris but did not increase species richness over a period of 25 years. Vegetation cover of heather was higher after 25 years of extensive grazing than prior to it (data presented in arcsine units).  However, species richness did not change significantly (5, 8 and 6 species in 1978 vs 5.5, 9 and 7 species in 2003, for dry, moist, and wet heathland respectively). Extensive grazing (0.1 cow/ha) was conducted annually from May to September in a 220 ha reserve. Vegetation was sampled in 28, 5 and 19 plots in dry, moist, and wet heathland respectively in 1978 (prior to initiation of grazing) and in 2003 (25 years after grazing initiation). Extensive grazing was supplemented locally with mechanical management practices, like tree-cutting or mowing.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)