Conservation Evidence strives to be as useful to conservationists as possible. Please take our survey to help the team improve our resource.

Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: The effect of mowing in May, July or September on plant ‘litter’ communities at Wicken Fen Nature Reserve, Cambridgeshire, England

Published source details

Rowell T.A., Guarino L., & Harvey H.J. (1985) The experimental management of vegetation at Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire. Journal of Applied Ecology, 22, 217-227


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

Cut/mow herbaceous plants to maintain or restore disturbance Peatland Conservation

A replicated before-and after study in 1980–1982 in a fen meadow in England, UK (Rowell et al. 1985) reported that after reinstating annual summer mowing, the plant community composition changed and species richness increased. These results are not based on tests of statistical significance. The overall composition of the plant community changed over two years of annual mowing (data reported as a graphical analysis). There were 1.1–2.3 plant species/250 cm2 before mowing, but 1.5–3.6 species/250 cm2 after two years of annual mowing. Amongst mown plots, species richness increased more in July-mown subplots than May-mown subplots, but community composition changes were similar (see Section 9.5). In 1980–1982, traditional annual summer mowing was reinstated in 10 plots across two fen meadow community types. In each plot, one random 25 m2 subplot was mown in May, one mown in July and one mown in May and July. Cuttings were removed. Immediately before each mowing, vascular plant species were recorded in sixteen 250 cm2 quadrats/subplot. Prior to the study, the meadow had been mown every 3 years (rather than every year).

(Summarised by Nigel Taylor)

Change season/timing of cutting/mowing Peatland Conservation

A replicated, randomized, paired, before-and-after study in 1980–1982 in a fen meadow in England, UK (Rowell et al. 1985) reported that mowing in different seasons generally produced similar changes in plant community composition, but found that summer-mown plots experienced larger increases in plant species richness than spring- and autumn-mown plots. Over two years, changes in overall plant community composition were similar in spring-, summer- and autumn-mown plots in four of six cases. In one plant community, autumn-mown plots developed different plant communities to spring- and summer-mown plots (data reported as graphical analyses; results not tested for statistical significance). Species richness increased significantly more in summer-mown plots than spring- or autumn-mown plots in three of four cases (summer-mown: 0.8–1.4 extra species; spring-mown: 0.2–0.5 extra species; autumn-mown: 0.2–0.3 extra species/250 cm2). In 1980–1982, annual mowing treatments were randomly applied to four 25 m2 plots in each of 10 blocks (situated in two different fen meadow community types). In each block, one plot was spring-mown (May), two were summer-mown (July) and one was autumn-mown (September). Cuttings were removed. Immediately before each mowing, vascular plant species were recorded in sixteen 250 cm2 quadrats/plot.