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Evaluation of shepherding techniques to enhance botanical diversity - BD0107

There has been a marked decrease in the area of heather moorland in the UK over the past 50 years; this may be attributed to increased stock numbers, land improvement and afforestation. This study will aim to quantify the detrimental impacts of selective sheep grazing on semi-natural vegetation, particularly at low stocking rates, and will evaluate effects of encouraging wider foraging behaviour. Studies of the grazing behaviour of sheep on paddocks grazed to either the Cambrian Mountains Extension ESA Tier 1A agreements (maximum of 1.5 sheep/ha) or Tier 2A agreements (maximum of 1.0 sheep/ha) will be undertaken at strategic times of the year. Influence of widely distributed, palatable free-access feed blocks on sheep foraging activity will be determined by monitoring botanical and environmental parameters; effects of winter feeding free-access big bale silage available from fixed points will also be investigated. Attempts will be made to quantify the number of feed blocks required to improve ranging behaviour of sheep, and ways in which different plant communities are used by grazing animals will be determined by use of fixed quadrats and other standard techniques. Impact of supplemented and non-supplemented regimes on vegetation change will also be examined, and will build on techniques currently being developed under existing MAFF funded work. The study will employ digital photographic monitoring (DPM) and satellite positioning (SP) to monitor grazing behaviour of sheep. DPM will involve automatic fixed cameras (which cover the greater part of the paddocks monitored) taking photographs at hourly intervals during daylight. The resulting low oblique photographs will be superimposed on a three dimensional digital terrain model of the paddocks, with sheep positions being digitised on the relevant space within the model to which digitised vegetation boundaries have been added. SP will track movements of selected sheep every 2 minutes using the global positioning satellite system which will enable sheep positions to be pinpointed to within 1-2 m of their true position. Data will then be downloaded to cartographic software. The 2 systems will validate and enhance each other and remove the subjective nature of some of the current assessments.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Evaluation of shepherding techniques to enhance botanical diversity   (398k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 1995

To: 1998

Cost: £136,359
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Fields of Study
Environmental Stewardship