The effects of conservation management of reed beds. II. The flora and litter disappearance.
The effects of management were determined by comparing pairs of adjacent cut and uncut reed (Phragmites australis) beds at 12 sites in Norfolk and Suffolk, UK, in July-Aug. 1988, and by a randomized block experiment at a further site in Norfolk, in which plots of reed were cut, burnt or left unmanaged. Most plants (25 species) were more abundant in managed reed beds than the unmanaged ones, and only 3 (Elymus repens, Impatiens capensis and Salix caprea)were more abundant in the latter. Several species were more common in burnt than cut plots. Reeds were shorter and occurred at higher densities where cut or burnt than where unmanaged. The proportion of reed flowering stems was highest in burnt plots. There was no difference in wt loss from seed litter bags and leaf bundles and no difference in associated soil invertebrates between treatments. However, seed wt loss was inversely related to water depth in the plots and after 6 weeks correlated with the number of Oligochaetes, Psychodid larvae and some Coleoptera species. Cutting and burning positively affected floristic diversity and most marsh plants, but had no effect on the rate of litter breakdown.