Rewilding the uplands: the effects of removing sheep grazing on soils and plants

Marrs, R.; Rasal, J.; Sanchez, R.; Connor, L.; Blackbird, S.; Rose, R.. 2018 Rewilding the uplands: the effects of removing sheep grazing on soils and plants. In: Feber, Ruth; Jones, Naomi; Marrs, Rob; Mortimer, Simon; Peters, Colin; Rotherham, Ian; Sparks, Timothy; Westbury, Duncan, (eds.) Ecosystem and habitat management: research, policy, practice. Wellesbourne, Association of Applied Biologists, 83-90. (Aspects of Applied Biology, 139).

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Rewilding the uplands almost inevitably involves the removal of grazing livestock. Whilst the concept of rewilding is gaining in popularity there is very little evidence about the likely outcomes or over the time-scales that any change might happen. Here, we report preliminary results from a recent study of eight long-term experiments at Moor House NNR in the north-Pennines, where permanent plots with- and without-sheep grazing were established between 1954—67 on a range of typical upland plant communities. Soils and vegetation were sampled and their chemical properties analysed were found. No significant differences in soil properties, above-ground biomass or the nutritional status of the vegetation. The above-ground biomass was correlated with altitude suggesting that climate was a more important driver than sheep grazing pressure. Assuming that the results scale-up from these small-scale experiments to the landscape scale, these results suggest that rewilding the uplands by reducing sheep densities to zero will have little impact in the short- to medium-term on soil or vegetation nutritional properties.

Item Type: Publication - Book Section
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
Additional Keywords: soil nutrition, biomass, herbage, plant nutrition, sheep, grazing, exclosures
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Agriculture and Soil Science
Date made live: 04 May 2018 14:25 +0 (UTC)

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