Turf removal encourages growth of salt-marsh grass Puccinellia maritima on red fescue Festuca rubra-dominated saltings pasture at Fennings Island, Somerset, England

  • Published source details Cadwalladr D.A. & Morley J.V. (1974) Further experiments on the management of saltings pasture for wigeon (Anas penelope L.) conservation at Bridgwater Bay National Nature Reserve, Somerset. Journal of Applied Ecology, 11, 461-466


At Bridgwater Bay National Nature Reserve in Somerset (southwest England) over-wintering wigeon Anas penelope, prefer to feed on short swards of salt-marsh grass Puccinellia maritima and creeping bent grass Agrostis stolonifera, rather than on taller (rank) red fescue Festuca rubra which dominated the area. In order to try and enhance the grazing pasture for wigeon, a pilot turf cutting experiment was carried out to see whether F.rubra could be replaced by P.maritima.

Study site: The study was undertaken on an area of coastal pasture on Fennings Island (44.5 ha) within the National Nature Reserve. The grassland sward could be divided into two types: short Puccinellia maritima and Agrostis stolonifera; and taller Festuca rubra.

Turf cutting: Two 3 x 2 m plots were selected within a flat area of Festuca sward for turf cutting in September 1969. The turf was removed completely to a depth of 3.5 cm from one of the 6 m² plots, with five (evenly spaced) 3 m x 30 cm and 3.5 cm deep turf strips removed from the second plot (leaving 5 cm wide 'baulks' of Festuca-dominated vegetation in place).

Sward composition: Sward composition in the two plots was determined before turf removal (September 1969) and 3 years later (September 1972). Sampling was undertaken within 15 quadrats (point coint method; 10 points spaced at 5 cm intervals) chosen at random in each plot.

In September 1972 (3 years after turf removal) vegetation had recolonized with a grass cover of about 80% having established over the cut areas.

There was a marked increase in P.maritima in the plot where the turf had been removed completely (from 2 to 75%);  and a lesser increase in the second plot (9 to 30%). There was a corresponding decrease in F.rubra which was greater in the complete turf removal plot (52 to 17%) than in the turf strip plot (66 to 58%) due the fescue colonizing the bare areas by rapid spread of tillers from the baulks.

Conclusions: At this locality, complete turf removal (with concordent slight lowering of the surface level of the saltings) P.maritima successfully colonized the bare ground. Removal of 30 cm wide strips was less successful.


Note: The compilation and addition of this summary was funded by the Journal of Applied Ecology (BES). If using or referring to this published study, please read and quote the original paper, this can be viewed at:

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