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RAUK - Archived Forum - Bracken and burning

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Bracken and burning:

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Senior Member
Joined: 05 Dec 2010
No. of posts: 83

View other posts by Scale
Posted: 05 Dec 2010
Could someone explain to me why a controlled winter
heathland burn (excluding reptile foci)is a less
favourable option than a winter cut (assuming the plot
sizes are appropriate). I'm always reading 'avoid
heathland burns of reptile sites', however, the oft
quoted risks appear to be the same as cutting (does
burning have a more fundamentally negative affect on
regen/species composition etc?). Assuming direct reptile
mortality is avoidable and the extent and layout of the
burn controllable, what are the pros and cons of

Also at a Midlands heathland site i am finding good
autumn/spring congregations of grass snakes in dense
Bracken dominated areas (presumably hibernating in the
litter layer and concealed rabbit burrows). Why is there
such an emphasis on removing it from 'common' reptile
sites. Without locating such areas, i'm sure the
aforementioned Bracken stand would no longer exist (based
on recommended reptile site management in the absence of
a thorough site survey).

Thanks in advance for any comments and/or suggestions
Rob (P.S. this is my first post)
Senior Member
Joined: 06 Apr 2005
No. of posts: 860

View other posts by Suzi
Posted: 05 Dec 2010
Your question will be answered by someone on here no doubt but just to say that snakes like bracken for all sorts of reasons. The markings of adders are very bracken-like aren't they? No coincidence?
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090

View other posts by GemmaJF
Posted: 27 Dec 2010
Bracken is extremely important on many reptile sites. It gets bashed because it isn't desirable to some people's aesthetics.

I've been watching for years as reptile populations suffer because of Bracken bashing activities.

It's all down to having an understanding of 3 dimensional structure of the site and the importance of 3 dimensional vegetation structure to reptiles.

If you have a major fire, it's often a case that green Bracken stands will shade out the light and there is no ground layer - Bracken becomes bad for reptiles, left alone for long enough it will however increase in value.

If you have decades of natural Bracken growth with deep ground layers it's an entirely different picture. Even in the height of the summer there are piles of dried Bracken providing basking sites and cover, such areas often have very high reptile population density.

The trouble is some land managers don't see the picture at all. It's very much a case of Bracken is just bad. Well it depends on the site and targetted survey is the only way to understand the site before management of any type is undertaken. Of course you then have the school of thought that all Bracken is bad because it is not as aesthetic as heather and adds nutrients to the soil... good bye to a few more reptile sites as those that seek to conserve throw the baby  out with the bath water..

Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant

- Bracken and burning

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