The effects of cattle grazing on tall-herb fen vegetation and molluscs
The effects of light year-round cattle grazing on tall-herb fen vegetation and wetland molluscs were compared to the effects of non-intervention over a period of four years using grazing exclosures. The distribution of cattle within the area of fen was investigated by plotting the position of the herd at 3–4 day intervals throughout the year. Cattle distributed themselves randomly throughout the fen in spring, autumn and winter, but showed a more aggregated distribution in summer. Grazing reduced the biomass of Phragmites australis and increased stem densities of Glyceria maxima, resulting in a shift of dominance from Phragmites to Glyceria. Plant species-richness was also significantly higher in areas open to grazing. Grazing decreased total densities of molluscs and substantially reduced densities of the rare snail Vertigo moulinsiana. V. moulinsiana was particularly associated with areas of fen that had a high water table and high biomass of ungrazed Carex riparia. However, because of the patchy nature of the grazing, V. moulinsiana survived at reasonably high densities in patches of ungrazed vegetation within the grazing unit.