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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: A systematic review to assess whether sheep-grazing degrades unimproved neutral grasslands managed as pasture in lowland Britain

Published source details

Stewart G.B. & Pullin A.S. (2006) Does sheep-grazing degrade unimproved neutral grasslands managed as pasture in lowland Britain? Systematic Review No.15. Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation


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

Maintain species-rich, semi-natural grassland Farmland Conservation

A 2006 systematic review (Stewart & Pullin 2006) of the impacts of grazing management on one type of species-rich old meadow in the UK found that intermediate grazing intensities were generally most appropriate for plant conservation. Choice of stock type (sheep, cattle or horses) appeared less critical than intensity but there is some evidence that sheep grazing can result in lower diversity of herbaceous plants than cattle grazing at high stocking rates. Two studies showed that sheep grazing led to lower plant diversity and herbaceous plant cover than cattle grazing on old or restored pastures (one study for each type). Data from Welsh grasslands showed that with sheep grazing, a lower grazing intensity (grass height >10 cm) was needed to maximize the abundance and number of species of herbaceous plants than for horse or cattle grazed sites. There was little information regarding taxa other than higher plants. The review searched for studies from the UK or Ireland comparing the effects of sheep grazing with horse, cattle or no grazing, on pastures characterized by crested dog’s-tail Cynosurus cristatus and black knapweed Centaurea nigra, known as MG5 under the UK National Vegetation Classification. Studies on similar grassland types in northwest Europe were also considered. Forty-two studies were found, of which 22 were reviews.