Action: Physically exclude vehicles from peatlands
Key messagesRead our guidance on Key messages before continuing
- One study evaluated the effects on peatland vegetation of physically excluding vehicles from peatlands. The study was in a fen.
- Vegetation structure (1 study): One replicated, paired, controlled, site comparison study in a floating fen in the USA reported that fencing off airboat trails allowed total and non-woody vegetation biomass to increase, recovering to levels recorded in undisturbed fen. Woody plant biomass did not recover.
- Overall plant richness/diversity (1 study): The same study reported that fencing off airboat trails allowed overall plant diversity to increase, recovering to levels recorded in undisturbed fen.
Vehicles (e.g. cars, quad bikes, cycles and airboats) can directly damage peatland vegetation. They can also compress and rut soft, wet peat, affecting storage and flow of water which in turn affects peatland vegetation. Vehicles could be physically excluded from pristine peatlands to prevent damage, or from damaged peatlands to let them recover. Physical barriers could be fences, fallen trees or areas of water/wet ground.
Key peatland types where this action may be appropriate: bogs, fens/fen meadows, tropical peat swamps.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A replicated, paired, controlled, site comparison study in 2002–2005 in a floating fen in Alaska, USA (Zacheis & Doran 2009) reported that plots fenced off from airboats developed greater plant diversity and non-woody plant biomass than exposed plots, similar to natural fen vegetation. Comparisons with exposed plots were not tested for statistical significance. After three years, plant diversity in fenced plots was higher than in exposed plots, and not significantly different from diversity in natural plots (data reported as a diversity index). The same was true for total above-ground plant biomass (fenced: 149; exposed: 49; natural: 242 g/m2), sedge biomass (fenced: 92; exposed: 24; natural: 83 g/m2) and forb biomass (fenced: 50; exposed: 24; natural: 47 g/m2). In contrast, woody plant biomass had not recovered in fenced plots (fenced: 5; exposed: 0; natural: 110 g/m2). Three months after fencing, all measures were no different, or lower, in fenced plots compared to exposed plots. In March 2002, eight sets of three 3.25 m2 plots were established. In each set, one plot was in natural fen vegetation and two were in airboat trails. Airboats were excluded from one of these plots by erecting log tripods. In summer 2002–2005, vegetation was cut from one 25 x 25 cm quadrat/plot then identified, dried and weighed.