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The life cycle of Heather

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Presentation on theme: "The life cycle of Heather"— Presentation transcript:

1 The life cycle of Heather
(Calluna vulgaris)

2 Heather (Calluna vulgaris)
A dominant plant of British heathlands, grows in four main stages: Pioneer Building Mature Degenerate

3 Pioneer Phase 5 - 6 years, from seedling development and establishment until the plant has developed into a fully formed bush. Heather cover is small and other species of vascular plants reach their greatest abundance, also mosses and lichens.

4 Building Phase Up to about 15 years old, until the bush-like form is well-established. Heather excludes all other species.

5 Mature Phase To about 25 years old.
Heather dominant, but becoming woody Growth becomes less vigorous the centre of the bush begins to open and branches grow on the soil surface. Bryophytes (mainly mosses) colonize the soil surface because of increased humidity beneath the closed canopy.

6 Degenerate Phase after 30 years, leads to death
active growth declines and the plant canopy continues to open and exposes more ground. Bryophytes reach their maximum abundance, other species of vascular plants and Heather seedlings are able to re-establish.

7 Heather management Prevent succession to woodland Regenerate heather
Young shoots eaten by grouse and sheep Pioneer phase important for invertebrates Invertebrates are food for chicks Small patches/strips produce edges give access to cover

8 Heather management OPTIONS ? Grazing Cutting Burning

9 Grazing Helps prevent invasion by trees and shrubs
Encourages branching and layering Trampling opens up canopy, creates paths High stocking densities (>1.5 ewes ha-1) reduces heather cover in favour of grasses

10 Cutting Narrow strips give long edges Not weather dependent
No risk of wild fire Layering possible Less wildlife value than burning

11 Burning Kills heather beetles and ticks Cracks open seeds
Ash releases nutrients No litter to inhibit seeding Looks ‘natural’ May encourage bracken invasion

12 Conservation management
Black grouse Open woodland and moorland

13 Conservation management
Hen Harrier Invertebrates

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