Data from: Resolving a heated debate: the utility of prescribed burning as a management tool for biodiversity on lowland heath

  • Barbara Smith (Creator)
  • Dan Carpenter (Creator)
  • John M. Holland (Creator)
  • Felicity Andruszko (Creator)
  • Alfred Gathorne-Hardy (Creator)
  • Paul Eggleton (Creator)



We investigated the impact of prescribed burning and vegetation cutting on a chronisequence of heathland sites (107 in total) in the New Forest National Park, Hampshire, UK. We present data for vegetation cover, canopy active invertebrates collected with sweep nets and ground active invertebrates collected using pitfall traps. Using a multi-trophic approach, we compared the ecological impact of prescribed burning with two types of vegetation cutting (swiping and baling) as management tools for biodiversity outcomes for up to 20 years after management. Indicators included: Common Standards Monitoring assessment (CSM); vegetation species assemblage; invertebrate biodiversity; and available food resources for two characteristic heathland birds – the Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata and the Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus. When compared with swiped sites, areas managed by prescribed burning resulted in: better habitat condition (assessed by CSM); higher cover of heathers; lower bracken cover; more areas of bare ground. We found no evidence that burning is detrimental for the investigated components of biodiversity. Cutting by swiping did not replicate the benefits of burning. Swiping supported grassland conditions that suit non-heathland species. Baling resulted in habitat conditions similar to prescribed burning but restricted replication of baled sites limited our conclusions. However, swiped sites supported high invertebrate abundance and diversity, including food resources for Dartford Warbler and Nightjar.
Date made available26 Jun 2023

Cite this