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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Efficacy of mechanical methods and the application of selective herbicides in control of birch Betula spp. at Holme Fen NNR, Cambridgeshire, England

Published source details

Marrs R.H. (1984) Birch control on lowland heaths: mechanical control and the application of selective herbicides by foliar spray. Journal of Applied Ecology, 21, 703-716


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

Apply herbicide to trees Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A randomized, replicated, controlled study in 1979–1981 in a heathland in Cambridgeshire, UK (Marrs 1984) found that using herbicide to control silver birch Betula pendula saplings sometimes increased the abundance of heather Calluna vulgaris and birch seedlings while reducing the abundance of silver birch saplings. In one of three cases, plots treated with herbicide had more heather seedlings (64 seedlings/m2) than untreated plots (4 seedlings/m2). In three of three cases, plots treated with herbicide had fewer birch saplings (0–1 saplings/m2) than untreated plots (20 saplings /m2). However, in two of three cases, birch seedlings were more abundant in plots treated with herbicide (24–54 seedlings/m2) than in untreated plots (7 seedlings/m2). The herbicides fosamine, 2,4,5-T, and triclopyr were each applied in four 4 m2 plots in 1979, and in four plots no herbicide was applied. Density of birch and heather plants was estimated annually in 1980-1981 in all plots.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)

Cut trees Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A randomized, replicated, controlled study in 1979–1981 in a heathland in Cambridgeshire, UK (Marrs 1984) found that cutting and pulling of silver birch Betula pendula increased the density of heather Calluna vulgaris seedlings but not that of mature common heather plants. There were more heather seedlings in plots where silver birch saplings had been cut or pulled (83–126 seedlings/m2) than in plots where silver birch saplings had not been cut or pulled (4 seedlings/m2), but there was no significant difference in mature heather density (cut/pulled: 8-11 plants/m2; uncut: 12 plants/m2). In two of three cases, areas where silver birch saplings had been cut or pulled had fewer silver birch saplings (0–5 saplings/m2) than areas where silver birch saplings had not been cut or pulled (20 saplings /m2), but in three of three cases there was no significant difference in the abundance of birch seedlings (cut/pulled: 9–19 seedlings/m2; uncut: 7 seedlings/m2). In four 4 m2 plots birch saplings were pulled out of the ground in 1979, in four plots birch saplings were cut in 1979, in four plots birch saplings were cut in 1979 and 1980, and in four plots birch saplings were not cut or pulled. Abundance of birch and heather plants was estimated annually in 1980-1981 in all plots.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)

Cut trees and apply herbicide Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

A controlled study in 1979–1981 in a heathland in Cambridgeshire, UK (Marrs 1984) found that cutting birch Betula pendula saplings and spraying with herbicide sometimes increased the abundance of heather Calluna vulgaris seedlings. After two years and in one of three cases, there were more heather seedlings in areas where silver birch saplings had been cut and sprayed with herbicide (64 seedlings/m2) than in plots where silver birch saplings had not been cut or sprayed (4 seedlings/m2). Areas where trees had been cut and herbicide had been applied had fewer silver birch saplings (2-4 saplings/m2) than those where herbicide had not been used (20 saplings/m2). However, the opposite was true in two of three cases for silver birch seedlings (cut and herbicide: 24-54 seedlings/m2; uncut and no herbicide: 7 seedlings/m2). The herbicides fosamine ammonium, 2,4,5-T, and triclopyr were each applied in four 4 m2 plots in 1979 followed by cutting in 1980, and in four plots no herbicide or cutting was applied. Additionally, each herbicide was applied in four 4 m2 plots in 1980 following cutting in 1979, and in another four plots no herbicide or cutting was applied. Abundance of silver birch and heather plants was estimated annually in 1980-1981 in all plots.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)