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Short-term impact of sheep and cattle grazing on upland wet heath vegetation

  • C. N. R. Critchley (a1), H. F. Adamson (a1) and J. J. Hyslop (a1)


The UK Biodiversity Action Plan identifies upland heath and blanket bog as priorities for conservation. Heavy grazing by livestock has damaged these habitats in many parts of the UK. Agri-environment schemes have partly addressed the problem by encouraging farmers to reduce sheep stocking levels on degraded moorland. This can prevent further loss of dwarf shrub cover, but the increased biomass of moorland grasses can inhibit regeneration of dwarf shrubs and other desirable species. The objectives of this system-scale study are to assess the impact on plant species composition and animal performance, of sheep-only and mixed grazing regimes with both cattle and sheep on degraded wet heath vegetation. It is being carried out as part of a wider project to determine environmentally sustainable and economically viable grazing systems for heather moorland.


Corresponding author

current address: SAC Select Services, FBS Area Office, Bush Estate, Penicuik. Midlothian EH26 0PH, U.K. Email:


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Adamson, H. F., Ross, S. Y. and Gardner, S. M. 2002. The response of upland wet heath to ESA stocking rates: a heft scale approach. In Biodiversity, Plant Structure and Vegetation, pp. 3639. SAC, Crianlarich.
Equihua, M. 1990. Fuzzy clustering of ecological data. Journal of Ecology 78: 519534.
Rodwell., J.S., 1991. British Plant Communities. Volume 2. Mires and Heaths. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.


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