The use of sheep grazing to recreate species-rich grassland from abandoned arable land

  • Published source details Gibson C.W.D., Watt T.A. & Brown V.K. (1987) The use of sheep grazing to recreate species-rich grassland from abandoned arable land. Biological Conservation, 42, 165-183.


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Restore/create species-rich, semi-natural grassland

Action Link
Farmland Conservation
  1. Restore/create species-rich, semi-natural grassland

    A replicated controlled study of an abandoned arable field in Oxfordshire, UK (Gibson et al. 1987b) found that plant species establishment was better in grazed areas and species richness, diversity, and abundance of individual species were also higher compared to ungrazed controls, however there were no apparent effects of sheep grazing treatment on the likelihood of new plant species arriving in the grassland. Within 18 months, 57% of plant species restricted to patches of old chalk/limestone (calcareous) grassland within 2 km had colonized the study field. Colonization was not thought to have come via the seed bank. In addition, the area grazed April-November contained many component species of mature chalk/limestone (calcicolous) grassland, unlike ungrazed controls. The 12 ha field had been permanent pasture until 1960 and was then cultivated until 1981. In 1985, two blocks of 1 ha were divided into nine paddocks, three replicates of spring grazed, autumn grazed and ungrazed treatments. Additional treatments were grazing from April-November with a short break in summer and continuous grazing August-November. Vegetation was sampled within permanent quadrats (1 mĀ²) from April 1984 to October 1986. This study was part of the same experimental set-up as (Gibson et al. 1987a, Watt & Gibson 1988, Brown & Gibson 1994).

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