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Control of Bracken and the Restoration of Heathland. V. Effects of Bracken Control Treatments on the Rhizome and its Relationship with Frond Performance
R. H. Marrs, R. J. Pakeman and J. E. Lowday
Journal of Applied Ecology
Vol. 30, No. 1 (1993), pp. 107-118
Published by: British Ecological Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2404275
Page Count: 12
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1. The effect of three bracken control treatments on the rhizome system of bracken (Pteridum aquilinum (L.) Kuhn) at Cavenham and Weeting Heaths in Breckland was assessed. Control treatments included cutting once and twice yearly between 1978 and 1990, and spraying the herbicide asulam at the recommended rate (4.4 kg a.i. ha-1) in 1978 and 1985. In addition, the effect of continuous treatment was compared with plots in which bracken control ceased after 6 years. The effects on rhizome biomass and length, numbers of active and dormant buds, and starch and soluble carbohydrate concentrations were measured. 2. Cutting twice yearly was the most effective treatment, but rhizomes persisted even after 12 years of continous treatment. Cutting once yearly and applying asulam gave intermediate reductions in all rhizome variables. 3. Where bracken control ceased there was a relatively rapid increase in all measures of rhizome performance. At Cavenham Heath, remission for 4 years increased the starch levels in rhizomes, and after 6 years increased all rhizome measures. At Weeting Heath all measures were significantly increased 5 years after control treatments ceased. 4. Regression analyses showed that the majority of the variation in summer frond performance (0.39-0.75) could be explained by rhizome biomass. At both sites amounts of starch and carbohydrate in the rhizome, and at Weeting the above-ground grass biomass and total bud number, improved the fit of some equations. 5. Some earlier published data for Weeting Heath were used to estimate rates of rhizome depletion and recovery. Extrapolation from these results suggested that it would take (a) a further 8-34 years to eradicate bracken depending on treatment, and (b) between 9 years (for the cut once yearly and asulam treatments) and 62 years (for the cut twice yearly treatment) for the bracken rhizome system to recover its starting biomass. Moreover, a large frond biomass would occur before the rhizome system recovered completely. The rates obtained from Weeting were used to predict the outcome of the Cavenham experiment and a reasonable fit was achieved.
Journal of Applied Ecology © 1993 British Ecological Society