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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Use erosion blankets/mats to aid plant establishment Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

Key messages

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  • One replicated, randomized, controlled study in the USA found that using an erosion control blanket increased the height of two shrub species.
  • One replicated, randomized, controlled study in the USA did not find an increase in the number of shrub species, but one controlled study in China did find an increase in plant diversity following the use of erosion control blankets. The same study found an increase in plant biomass and cover.

Supporting evidence from individual studies


A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 2008–2009 in sagebrush scrub shrubland that had been burnt in wildfires in California, USA (McCullough & Endress 2012) found that using an erosion control blanket did not increase the number of shrubs, or forb cover and did not reduce the cover of non-native forbs and grasses, but did increase the height of California sagebrush Artemisia  californica and common deerweed Lotus scoparius. After one year, both California sagebrush (47 cm) and common deerweed (57 cm) were taller in areas where erosion control blankets had been laid than in areas where they had not (California sagebrush: 33 cm; common deerweed: 48 cm). In January 2008 a straw-based erosion control blanket was laid in four 8 m x 20 m plots, while in four other plots no blanket was laid. In July 2009 vegetation was surveyed by placing three 20 m transects in each plot and vegetation recorded every 1 m.


A controlled study in 2010 in an arid shrubland in Xin-jiang, China (Liu et al. 2013) found that stabilizing sand using reed mats and then planting native shrubs increased plant cover, biomass and plant species diversity. Areas where sand had been stabilized had higher plant cover (28% cover) than areas that had not been stabilized (17% cover). The same pattern was true for biomass (stabilized: 121 g/m2, unstabilized: 87 g/m2) and plant species diversity (data presented as model results). Sand was stabilized by placing reed cuttings in a checkerboard pattern. Native shrubs were then planted where reed cuttings were placed. In 2010 ten 100 m2 plots were used to sample areas that had been stabilized and eleven 100 m2 were used to sample areas that had not.

Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Martin P.A., Rocha R., Smith R.K. & Sutherland W.J. (2018) Shrubland and Heathland Conservation. Pages 447-494 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, N. Ockendon, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2018. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.