Question: How successful is restoration that is focused on a single dominant plant at enabling the reassembly of the whole vegetation assemblage and what factors affect the relative success of such restoration?
Location: Moorlands in England and Scotland, UK.
Methods: Vegetation composition was sampled in grass-dominated (degraded), restored and long established Calluna vulgaris-dominated (target) areas within eight moorland restoration sites. Additional soil and biogeographic data were collected. Data were analysed by Canonical Correspondence Analysis, which allowed the impact of moorland management to be examined.
Results: All sites showed good restoration success when the dominant managed species (Calluna vulgaris, Molinia caerulea and Nardus stricta) were considered. Restoration success of the remainder of the plant assemblage, disregarding these dominant species, was lower with restored samples at some sites differing little from their respective degraded samples. Moors restored solely by grazing exclusion were more similar to their respective targets than were those restored by more intensive mechanical means. The most important factors in explaining vegetation assemblages were management status (i.e. whether samples represented degraded, restored or target parts of the moor) and latitude.
Conclusions: The project demonstrates that, where possible, restoration should be attempted by grazing exclusion alone. Furthermore the importance of applying local restoration targets and of monitoring the whole plant assemblages when assessing the success of moorland restoration is highlighted.
Abbreviations: CCA = Canonical Correspondence Analysis, LOI = Loss on Ignition