New Heathland Habit Experiment

New heathland habitat creation experiment at Prees Heath Reserve

Philip Putwain has collaborated with Stephen Lewis (Butterfly Conservation), Andrew Cherrill and Simon Jefferey (both Harper Adams University) to undertake a new heathland creation experiment at Prees Heath Reserve in north Shropshire.

Extensive heathland creation (and ongoing ecosystem development) at Prees Heath commenced in 2007 and in 2020 circa 15ha of valuable heathland habitat has developed for supporting the only remaining population of silver studded blue butterfly in the English Midlands. An area of acid grassland adjacent to created heathland has not been colonised by Calluna vulgaris and Erica cinerea despite being unmanaged for about 25 years since the area was last cultivated as arable cropland.

 The aim of the experiment was to test whether heathland dwarf shrubs can be established as a result of removing a thin layer of vegetation (mean depth 116mm) and sowing seed of Calluna vulgaris or Erica cinerea. There were seven treatments including control, that included exclusion of rabbit grazing (using chicken wire) and addition of seed or not. Plot size was 5m x 2.5m and they were physically created in November 2019, seed was sown on 8th January 2020. It is intended that records will be made of species establishment and long-term assembly of heathland species, for many years. If successful, the habitat resource for silver studded blue will be expanded even further.

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