Recovery of Moorland Vegetation after Aerial Spraying of Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn) with Asulam


Address correspondence to R. J. Pakeman, email


Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) is a major weed of seminatural vegetation in Great Britain, as in many other countries. As a consequence, large areas have been subject to control with the intention of restoring the former vegetation. The use of aerial spraying with asulam, a narrow spectrum, carbamate herbicide, has become a common method of control. However, its long-term efficacy has not been assessed in terms of either controlling the bracken or in producing suitable restored habitats. This study undertook such an assessment by comparing the results of a 2002 survey of the sites subject to bracken control by aerial spraying of asulam with previous (1990/1991 and 1994) surveys of the same sites. This showed that a single application of asulam was effective in eradicating bracken (<1% cover remaining) on a third of sites. However, on 10% of the sites, the bracken had regenerated completely (cover >80%) and on the remainder it was still present in patches (>20% of quadrats), often at high density. More than half the sprayed sites had seen good recovery of moorland vegetation, the target of the restoration, because they were now classified as having upland heathland vegetation within the National Vegetation Classification. Considerable amounts of bracken control are grant aided as part of agri-environment schemes. These schemes should be adapted to encourage good practice, namely, intensive follow-up treatment by spraying any emerging fronds, and to encourage treatment of previously sprayed areas rather than spraying of new areas in order to protect previous investment of grant aid.