The effects of cutting and herbicide treatment on Pteridium aquilinum encroachment

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Corresponding author; Fax + 441224311556; E-mail r.pakeman@macaulay.ac.uk

Abstract

Abstract. Pteridium aquilinum (bracken) encroachment is an important factor in the loss of certain habitats in the United Kingdom. However, no information exists as to whether prevention of encroachment is a cost-effective strategy for Pteridium management. Conventional methods for the control of Pteridium (cutting, asulam application) were tested at one site (Levisham) to quantify their ability to prevent or delay encroachment and to affect the vigour of the Pteridium at the edge of the stand. The effects of encroachment and asulam application on the vegetation present were monitored at a second site (Ramsley), where techniques commonly used for moorland restoration were employed in combination with asulam application.

Cutting once per year or a single application of asulam delayed the advance of the Pteridium front. At Levisham, the untreated front advanced 2.7 m in 5 yr, while in the same period the cut front advanced 0.88 m and the sprayed front was 1.5 m behind its initial position. At Ramsley, the untreated front invaded 1.8 m in 5 yr, and the sprayed front was again 1.5 m behind its starting position. Both spraying and cutting reduced frond biomass, frond cover and rhizome biomass. Herbicide spraying prevented the loss of Calluna vulgaris, though the restoration treatments had little effect. The merits of a balanced targeting of control on encroaching fronts or Pteridium at the stand level are discussed for different situations.

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