Damian McFerran, James McAdam, Ian Montgomery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The impact of burning and grazing on plant, ground beetle and spider species was investigated experimentally in stands of varying ages (burnt in 1982 and 1988 and unburnt plots) on an area of heather moorland in County Antrim, north-east Ireland. Burning initiated complex succession pathways which appear to have characteristic plant and invertebrate species associations. Removal of Calluna dominance initiated a period of high plant species diversity. Investigation of initial post-fire regeneration suggested that the frequency of occurrence of plant species changed over time and was affected by grazing. Grouping of species by the position of their renewal bud, i.e. their life-form, did not account for all observed interspecific variation. The dominant species after burning were Eriophorum vaginatum, E. angustifolium and Vaccinium myrtillus. Studies of vegetation canopy structure showed that, even with the exclusion of the main grazing herbivores, Calluna will not re-establish itself as the dominant species until several years after burning. The ground beetle Nebria salina was trapped more often on plots burnt in 1988 than on unburnt plots or those burnt in 1982. In comparison, Pterostichus niger and Carabus granulatus were trapped in greater numbers on plots burnt in 1982 than on unburnt plots and plots burnt in 1988. The large species Carabus problematicus and Carabus glabratus were trapped in greater numbers on unburnt plots. Similarly, more of the spiders Ceratinella brevipes and Centromerita concinna were trapped on the plots burnt in 1982. In comparison, Lepthyphantes zimmermanni and Robertus lividus were trapped more often on unburnt plots than on plots burnt in 1982 and 1988. Results are discussed with respect to the importance of the continuation of traditional heathland management practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalBiology and Environment-Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy
Publication statusPublished - 1995


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