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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Response of bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus L. stands in the Derbyshire Peak District to sheep grazing, and implications for moorland conservation

Published source details

Welch D. (1998) Response of bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus L. stands in the Derbyshire Peak District to sheep grazing, and implications for moorland conservation. Biological Conservation, 83, 155-164


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

Shorten the period during which livestock can graze Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A replicated, controlled, before-and-after study in 1990-1996 in two moorland sites in Derbyshire, UK (Welch et al. 1998) found that restricting grazing to summer or winter had mixed effects on grass cover in and the cover of crowberry Empetrum nigrum, bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus, and heather Calluna vulgaris. In one site and after six years, grass cover was higher after restricting grazing (77%) than before grazing restriction (75%), while in another site it was lower (after: 62%, before: 81%). Over the same period, the cover of grass in plots with year-round grazing declined (from 77% to 52%). In one site, cover of crowberry was higher after restricting grazing (13%) than before grazing restriction (5%). In one site, cover of bilberry was lower after restricting grazing (50%) than before grazing restriction (68%), whereas cover of heather was higher after restricting grazing (28%) than before restriction (20%). Over the same period, the cover of bilberry in plots with year-round grazing also declined (from 73% to 56%). In each site, sheep were excluded by fencing from four areas of 25 m x 20 m during a six-month period over summer (April to October) or winter (October to April) and two nearby areas had year-round grazing. Vegetation height and cover was recorded annually in August.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)

Use fences to exclude livestock from shrublands Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A replicated, controlled, before-and-after trial in 1990-1996 in two moorland sites in Derbyshire, UK (Welch 1998) found that after using fences to exclude sheep the cover of crowberry Empetrum nigrum and grass was higher and the cover of mat-grass Nardus stricta was lower in both sites, whereas the effects on cover of bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus and heather Calluna vulgaris were mixed. In both sites and after six years, cover of crowberry and grass was higher and the cover of mat-grass was lower after excluding sheep (crowberry: 25–28%; grass: 64–92%; mat-grass: 6–8%) than before grazing restriction (crowberry: 16%; grass: 55–81%; mat-grass: 13–15%). Additionally, in one of the sites cover of bilberry decreased (from 62% to 45%) and cover of heather increased (from 28% to 39%). Over the same period in plots with year-round grazing, the cover of bilberry declined in one site from 73% to 56% and the cover of grass declined the other site from 81% to 66%. The heights of bilberry and heather increased respectively from 13–16 cm to 18–21cm and from 19–25 cm to 30–33 cm. In each site, sheep were excluded by fencing from two areas of 50 m x 10 m and two nearby areas had year-round grazing. Vegetation height and cover was recorded annually in August.

(Summarised by Ricardo Rocha)