Scraping & Turf Stripping
The surface scraping of heathland vegetation using a machine is a management technique used to remove all above ground vegetation. It can create pioneer heathland habitat and bare ground, and when undertaken at deeper profiles (turf stripping) can be effective in controlling bracken through the removal of rhizomes. Scraping and removal of vegetation from the site can be more effective than burning or mowing in removing nutrients which is necessary to ensure continued a heathland presence.
Scraping requires an experienced machine operator who can remove the vegetation mat and leave soil profiles intact. Surface scraping creates a bare ground environment which can be of benefit to ephemeral (seasonal and short-lived) heathland plants and some invertebrate groups. It is an ideal management technique to create new habitat for silver studded blue butterflies to colonise.
There are a number of problematic issues relates with this technique, including the disposal of material from the scrape. However, this can provide suitable conditions for breeding grass snakes, is often used by slow worms, small mammals and invertebrates, and can supply a source of seed material for heathland restoration. An additional potential problem is the disturbance of underground archaeology.
At present only surface raking is generally undertaken on the Pebblebed heaths. When turf stripping is required for habitat management, it is only considered after consultation with Natural England and the county archaeologist, and under close archaeological supervision.
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