Impacts of livestock grazing on lowland heathland.

Published online
15 May 2021
Published by
Natural England
Content type

Lake, S. & Bullock, J. M. & Hartley, S.

Publication language


The objectives of this report are to: review and synthesise information on lowland heathland grazing history, methods and impacts; obtain this information from published and unpublished literature, observation and anecdote from site managers, and on-going research; highlight gaps in our understanding of lowland heathland grazing and prioritize data requirements in terms of conservation needs; and identify appropriate research methodologies for studying lowland heathland grazing and recommend research protocols to fulfil data requirements. Impacts of livestock on lowland heathland vegetation will vary according to stocking density, livestock type, grazing season, vegetation start point, site characteristics and climate. Grazing by livestock is an appropriate management for lowland heathland, to deliver conservation objectives. Management regimes using appropriate grazing can produce a greater diversity of habitats and thus a greater biological diversity than other management types such as burning or cutting. Grazing impacts must always be considered in terms of the intensity of grazing and the livestock types used; negative effects, or poor achievement of targets can arise from inappropriate grazing. The negative impacts of grazing on biodiversity over much of upland heathland in Britain illustrate the consequences of overgrazing.

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