Loss of heather moorland in the Scottish uplands: the role of red grouse management


Robertson PA, Park K & Barton A (2001) Loss of heather moorland in the Scottish uplands: the role of red grouse management. Wildlife Biology, 7 (1), pp. 37-42.

Scottish upland moorland dominated by heather Calluna vulgaris is the primary habitat for red grouse Lagopus lagopus scoticus, and has been declining since the 1940s. At the same time red grouse numbers have also fallen. We compared land cover change on sites managed for grouse shooting (1945-1990), and on sites which were managed for grouse in the 1940s but on which management had stopped by the 1980s. Land cover type for sites (N = 229) containing >10% heather cover in the 1940s were examined during the 1940s, 1970s, and 1980s. Grouse management existed on 49% of sites in the 1940s, a number which had fallen to 20% by the 1980s. In the 1940s there were no significant differences in land cover type between areas that were managed for grouse, and areas that were not. However, differences emerged during the 1970s and 1980s; areas where grouse management had ceased by the 1980s showed an expansion in woodland cover from 6% in the 1940s to 30% in the 1980s, and a reduction in heather cover from 53% to 29%. In areas where active grouse management had been maintained, woodland increased from 3% to 10% and heather decreased from 51% to 41% during the same period. These changes may be, in part, a consequence of government agricultural and forestry policy. When profitable, grouse management reduces the attractiveness of such subsidies and thereby results in a slower loss of heather

red grouse; heather

Wildlife Biology: Volume 7, Issue 1

Publication date31/12/2001
PublisherThe Nordic Board for Wildlife Research
Publisher URL…/1/Articles.aspx