Deer and sedges

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Flanders Moss NNR

There are always winners and losers in life. And at the moment the white-beaked sedge is a big winner…at least on Flanders Moss.

This is a small and relatively discrete (unexciting?) sedge that grows only on peaty, acidic sites and so has a very patchy distribution across the UK that is almost entirely western. So unless you spend a lot of time on bogs or up in the mountains you won’t see very much of it. On Flanders the bog conditions obviously suit it and it is usually scattered very lightly in little tussocks across the site.

But in the last few years it has been boom time for the white-beaked sedge and this is because of the problem red deer we have on the site. The large red deer population on the Moss is causing big problems for the bog habitat by breaking up the vegetation layer on the surface of the bog through treading. This is causing large areas of bare peat and the lose of the sphagnum carpets that are so important for the bog. But a bit of disturbance in the surface vegetation creates openings for the white-beaked sedge and it has now started to spread in lime green carpets across large areas of deer poached ground. Though this is great for a scarce plant is is like a highlighter pen showing up the impact that these deer are having across the bog. With the reduction of the deer population and a lessening of the ground disturbance the balance will go back to more sphagnum and les white-beaked sedge but this is another indication for the need to improve the deer management on Flanders Moss.

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