Enhancing diversity of species-poor grasslands: an experimental assessment of multiple constraints

  • Published source details Pywell R.F., Bullock J.M., Tallowin J.B., Walker K.J., Warman E.A. & Masters G. (2007) Enhancing diversity of species-poor grasslands: an experimental assessment of multiple constraints. Journal of Applied Ecology, 44, 81-94.


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Sow seeds of parasitic species (e.g. yellow rattle)

Action Link
Grassland Conservation

Restore/create species-rich, semi-natural grassland

Action Link
Farmland Conservation
  1. Sow seeds of parasitic species (e.g. yellow rattle)

    A replicated, randomized, paired controlled study in 1999–2003 in two species-poor grassland sites in the UK (Pywell et al. 2007) found that disturbing soil and sowing seeds of the parasitic plant yellow rattle Rhinanthus minor did not alter the number of plant species compared to disturbing soil alone. In each of four years, plant species richness did not significantly differ between areas where soil was disturbed and yellow rattle seeds were sown (9.1–16.0 species/plot) and areas where soil was disturbed but seeds were not sown (11.0–16.2 species/plot). In September 1999, in eight 15 x 15 m plots at each site, soil was disturbed using a power-harrow to a depth of 5 cm and seeds of the plant yellow rattle were sown at a rate of 2.4 kg/ha. In eight other plots, soil was disturbed but no seeds were sown. All plots were paired. Vegetation composition was recorded in June 1999–2003 using five randomly placed 1 x 1 m quadrats/plot.

    (Summarised by: Philip Martin)

  2. Restore/create species-rich, semi-natural grassland

    A randomized, replicated and controlled trial in 1999-2003 of restoration methods at two sites in the UK (Pywell et al. 2007) found that turf removal followed by seed addition was the most effective means of increasing plant diversity. Multiple harrowing was moderately effective and was enhanced by applying snail/slug pesticide and sowing yellow rattle Rhinanthus minor (which reduced competition from grasses). Grazing, slot-seeding and inoculation with soil microbial communities from species-rich grasslands did not increase botanical diversity, and different grazing management regimes had little impact. Thirteen treatments were applied to 15 x 15 m plots at sites in Devon and Buckinghamshire, with eight replicates of each treatment. All treatments were managed with a single July hay cut.


Output references
What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 21

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape ProgrammeRed List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Mauritian Wildlife Supporting Conservation Leaders
Sustainability Dashboard National Biodiversity Network Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Bat Conservation InternationalPeople trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust