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Abstract

No guidelines are currently available that advise which soil properties of arable land can be used to suggest suitable locations for heathland reconstruction. This paper reviews studies comparing soil properties of heathland or semi-natural grassland with those of adjacent arable fields, investigations in the autecology of the dominant heathland plant, Calluna vulgaris (common heather), and long-term experiments of fertilizer inputs on arable soils. Three properties must be assessed before the suitability of a field can be determined: extractable phosphorus, exchangeable calcium, and pH. A number of other nutrients may also be important, but evidence is currently insufficient to substantiate this. Natural changes in levels of extractable phosphorus, exchangeable calcium, and pH appear to be very slow, so nutrient stripping and acidification will be necessary where recommended levels are exceeded to successfully restore heathland vegetation.