The effect of bracken distribution on moorland vegetation and soils

Mitchell, Joan (1977) The effect of bracken distribution on moorland vegetation and soils. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 1977MitchellPhD.pdf] PDF
Download (13MB)
Printed Thesis Information:


Despite the existence of an extensive literature on the morphology, autecology, utilisation, and eradication of Pteridium aquilinum, relatively little research has been done on the Pteridium-grassland ecosystem of Scottish
rough grazings. This study is a systematic and semi-quantitative investigation of the influence of Pteridium competition on its associated vegetation and
soils, based on field and soil laboratory techniques.
It is postulated that the differential response of moorland species to varying degrees of bracken dominance and the modification of soil morphological and chemical characteristics by the dominant plant species is partly responsible for the well-known association of Pteridium aqutlinum with Festuca-Agrostis - brown forest soil ecosystems.
This hypothesis is tested in the field in three contrasting upland environments in Scotland. The influence of varying densities of bracken on three facets of the vegetation - soil association is examined: (I) the characteristic
particularly the biomass, of the ground vegetation as a whole (2) the species composition of the herb layer and (3) the morphological characteristics of the soil. The degree of dominance of bracken is defined in a semi-quantitative
manner and correlated with indices of the vigour of the ground vegetation and its species composition. A classification of common dry moorland species, according to their response to Pterldlum competition is produced.
The association of Ptertdlum aqutltnum with soils of brown forest soil morphology is studied and the importance of the rhizome system In modifying the physical characteristics of the soil and the distribution of organic matter in the profile demonstrated. The tendency of bracken to modify the morphological
characteristics of podsolised soils is shown.
Subsequent laboratory analysis substantiates the morphological evidence
of the relationship between Pteridium-dominated vegetation and soil type. By
revealing the differences in nutrient status between bracken soils and podsolised
heath soils and the seasonal variation In nutrient levels, the efficiency of
Pteridium in cycling nutrients through the ecosystem Is suggested. The ability
of Pterldium to release phosphate from inorganic sources in the soil is demonstrated by laboratory experiment, anomalously high available phosphate levels in the subsoil of bracken soils having been revealed by routine analysis. Laboratory experiment also suggests that the modification of iron pans by Pteridium rhizomes may have a chemical as well as a physical component. The evidence of Pteridium's Influence on vegetation and soil characteristics allows preliminary comment to be made on the ecological significance of bracken eradication schemes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: S Agriculture > SB Plant culture
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Tivy, Prof. Joy
Date of Award: 1977
Depositing User: Ms Mary Anne Meyering
Unique ID: glathesis:1977-5359
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2014 12:52
Last Modified: 08 Jul 2014 12:53

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year