Restoration of upland vegetation communities by conservation grazing: the effect of changing from sheep to ponies

Chris Smillie, Ross Turnbull

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster

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    Abstract

    Traprain Law is a steep-sided hill in East Lothian. Most of the hill is grassland and designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest for botanical and geological interest. In 2003, a fire damaged much of the vegetation on the site. To facilitate regrowth, 125 sheep were reintroduced in 2008 to reduce coarse vegetation. However, this did not have the desired effect as sheep are selective grazers, with a preference for forbs over tall grasses. Thus, much of the Law became undergrazed and tall grasses began to dominate. In 2012, sheep were removed and thirteen Exmoor ponies introduced. Results reveal that some areas of the site have changed substantially, while others have remained relatively constant. Portions of the summit changed from tall grassland communities to short communities, meanwhile, the northern and southern slopes were evidently much less grazed, resulting in a transition to rank grassland. Ponies are selective grazers, and have thus exhibited a preference for only part of the site, leading to neglected areas becoming less species diverse. Overall, botanical interest has increased, suggesting Exmoor ponies have a role to play in conservation grazing., but with limitations.

    Conference

    ConferenceChartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management Scottish Conference 2020
    CountryUnited Kingdom
    Period27/10/20 → …
    Internet address

    Keywords

    • Ecology
    • conservation
    • botany
    • grazing

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