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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Restoring lowland heath through small-scale turf removal at Cooper’s Hill Nature Reserve, Bedfordshire

Published source details

Hitchcock G.E. (2018) Restoring lowland heath through small-scale turf removal at Cooper’s Hill Nature Reserve, Bedfordshire . Conservation Evidence, 15, 2-4

Summary

At Cooper’s Hill Nature Reserve, Bedfordshire, England, areas of mature heather Calluna vulgaris have been lost and replaced by dense grassy swards. We hypothesised that any heather seedlings would have difficulty competing with the grasses and tested this by removing the turf to expose the nutrient-poor sandy soil in seven small plots across the reserve. These plots, together with control areas, were monitored annually to determine which vegetation types would re-establish. Five plots also received seed-rich brash (cut heather) on half of each plot to determine whether additional seeding of stripped areas was required. Analysis of the data collected over the first five years indicates that the technique increased the amount of heather seedlings establishing, as measured by percentage heather cover. Adding seed rich brash had no effect, implying a good amount of viable heather seed is present in the soil at this site. Grasses are also establishing in the stripped areas but are not dominating the plots.