Individual study: use of grazing and mowing to reduce the dominance of soft rush Juncus effusus in fen meadows in Scotland.
Three years of differing management regimes to reduce the dominance of soft rush Juncus effusus were undertaken at Moss Town Fen on the north-east Aberdeenshire coast, Scotland, UK. The effectiveness of grazing and mowing combinations of increasing intensity were trialled, from ungrazed and unmown management to continuous grazing and annual mowing for three years. Sward height and density, and rush cover were surveyed to examine the effect of the management combinations. Forb, grass, bryophyte and bare ground cover were also monitored to understand whether the management treatments had any effect on these sward components. Continuous grazing with konik ponies and at least two years of mowing (either consecutively or with a gap year) reduced rush the most. The treatments had no consistent effect on forb, grass or bryophyte cover, which may be due to a time lag between the reduction in rush cover and the germination and growth of these sward components. Bare ground cover was low, at less than 1% in most of the treatments, negating any concern that the grazing intensity was having a negative impact on the delicate fen habitat. Anecdotal observations on waterfowl and lesser butterfly orchid Platanthera bifolia support the benefits of a grazing and mowing regime to reduce rush dominance. These results also identified that a cost saving could be made by slightly reducing the intensity of management regime.