Bracken Control: A Guide to Best Practice (SNH)

STAGE 1 - WHAT SHOULD BE CONSIDERED?

WHAT ARE THE LONG-TERM LAND-USE OBJECTIVES?
  • To re-establish heather, productive grass, pre-existing vegetation, or woodland? It is vital to consider what vegetation is to replace the bracken and how to manage this vegetation recovery long-term. (see Stage 5)
  • To enhance wildlife or conservation interests?
  • To control disease in animals?
  • To protect archaeological interests?
  • To protect footpaths or public access?
WHAT IS THE CONDITION AND VIGOUR OF BRACKEN?
  • Look at the density of bracken and the growth form (see Scenarios). These will also determine the method of treatment.
  • It is best to tackle bracken fronts which are invading desirable habitats (heather etc) and sparse bracken in order to prevent further encroachment, before tackling dense, static stands.
  • The benefits of controlling areas of sparse bracken which are growing weakly and not expanding may not be great.
  • Look at the amount of litter present and whether this will inhibit vegetation recovery. Litter/destruction/removal may be needed.
WHAT IS THE CONDITION AND VIGOUR OF THE UNDERLYING VEGETATION?
  • Bare ground or sparsley-vegetated ground can take years to revegetate without additional intervention and is at risk from over-grazing and erosion.
  • Stocking levels may need adjusting and fencing may be required to promote vegetation recovery.
  • Rabbits and other pests may need to be controlled.
  • Reseeding may be required.
  • Although trees can sometimes be planted through deep litter without any further treatment, it usually prevents regeneration, so may need to be burned, trampled or incorporated into the soil.
WATER QUALITY
  • Is the area in a drinking water catchment (reservoir, stream intake, spring or borehole)?
  • Where are the waterbodies (rivers, streams, lochs, groundwater)?
  • Remember you will have to leave a buffer strip around waterbodies when using chemical control.
OTHER ISSUES
  • Natural heritage - non-target species can be severely damaged by chemical or mechanical treatments, or by loss of habitat. Consider whether control is appropriate, and if so which method is best.
  • There are special rules which apply to sites designated for their nature conservation interest. Contact SNH or SEPA (see below) for information and guidance.
  • Public access - you may need to post public warnings and obtain consents.
TARGET AREAS AND EXTENT OF THE BRACKEN
  • Consider costs and follow-up treatments - it is best to tackle smaller areas properly than to try to treat large areas ineffectively.
  • Decide on the most important areas to treat (prioritise).
  • Consider slope and accessibility. Steep slopes affect access and safety of vehicle and driver and can add significantly to the plan area to be controlled.
  • Consider appropriate methods of control.
  • Erosion can result from spraying bracken on steep slopes or where vegetation growing beneath is absent or sparse .
  • Accurate survey maps will be needed especially where grant-aid is applicable or where aerial spraying may affect a site designated for its nature conservation interest.
  • Maps are invaluable in planning a long term management programme.
CONSENTS AND CONSULTATIONS
  • When planning treatment, account will need to be taken account of statutory or legal requirements (see below).
RESOURCES
  • Ensure that adequate resources are allocated for follow-up treatment. If you do not follow up primary treatment bracken will rapidly recover and the resources deployed on the initial treatment will be largely wasted.

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