Add fertilizer to soil (alongside planting/seeding)

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    45%
  • Certainty
    25%
  • Harms
    0%

Source countries

Key messages

  • A replicated, controlled study in Iceland found that adding fertilizer and sowing seeds increased cover of shrubs and trees in a majority of cases. The same study showed an increase in vegetation cover in two of three cases.
  • One controlled study in the USA found that adding fertilizer increased the biomass of four-wing saltbush in a majority of cases.

About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A controlled study in 1972 in a greenhouse in New Mexico, USA (Williams & O'Connor 1973) found that adding fertilizer increased the biomass of four-wing saltbush Atriplex canescens in two of three cases. In two of three cases when fertilizer was added the biomass of four-wing saltbush was higher (149–175 mg) than when fertilizer was not added (73–86 mg). Soil was collected from nearby shrublands and local gardens. Soil from shrublands was used to fill 24 pots and soil from gardens was used in 12 pots. Fertilizer was added to half of the pots while the other half were left unfertilized. One hundred four-wing saltbush seeds/plot were added and these were later thinned so that there were nine plants/pot. After 97 days plants were harvested, dried, and biomass calculated.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated, controlled study in 1954–1999 in three unvegetated areas in Iceland (Gretarsdottir et al. 2004) found that sowing of seeds followed by fertilization increased vegetation cover in two of three cases, increased cover of shrubs and trees in two of three cases, and did not increase the number of plant species. Plant cover was higher in two of three sites where seeds had been sown and fertilizer applied (7–100% cover) than in sites where no seeds were sown or fertilizer applied (1–5% cover). Shrub cover was higher in two of three sites where seeds had been sown and fertilizer applied (0–8% cover) than in sites where no seeds were sown or fertilizer applied (0–1% cover). The number of plant species was significantly lower in one of three sites where seeds had been sown and fertilizer applied (4–8 species) compared to sites where no seeds were sown or fertilizer applied (3–9 species). At one site seeds were sown from airplanes, followed by application of fertilizer between 1954 and 1979 while at the other site this occurred between 1960 and 1975. In 1999 five 100 m2 plots were placed at each site and at nearby areas where no seed was sown and no fertilizer was applied. Ten 0.25 m2 quadrats were placed randomly in each plot and vegetation cover assessed.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Martin P.A., Rocha R., Smith R.K. & Sutherland W.J. (2019) Shrubland and Heathland Conservation. Pages 493-538 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, N. Ockendon, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2019. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Shrubland and Heathland Conservation
Shrubland and Heathland Conservation

Shrubland and Heathland Conservation - Published 2017

Shrubland and Heathland synopsis

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, terrestrial mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read latest volume: Volume 17

Go to the CE Journal

Subscribe to our newsletter

Please add your details if you are interested in receiving updates from the Conservation Evidence team about new papers, synopses and opportunities.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape Programme Red List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Bern wood Supporting Conservation Leaders National Biodiversity Network Sustainability Dashboard Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx British trust for ornithology Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Butterfly Conservation People trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust