We are testing a new beta website for gov.scot go to new site

Bracken Eradication

Bracken Eradication Programme for species-rich grassland, coastal or lowland heath

3.2.1 A systematic programme of treatment and follow-up must be carried out, where necessary using Asulam or other approved herbicide, in accordance with a Bracken Eradication Programme (BEP) laid out in an approved BEP Management Plan. This management option may be undertaken on species-rich grassland, unimproved grassland, coastal heath or lowland heath as the sole RSS management activity on the site - provided the site criteria are satisfied.

3.2.2 The specific management to be applied to the area or field is: In year 1, a detailed BEP Management Plan should be prepared that will incorporate a map drawn to a scale of 1:10000 showing the extent of the invasion, the areas of bracken to be cleared over the life-time of the scheme plan, an estimate of the percentage cover and frond density of the bracken within each area at full frond stage (mid/late June on the West Coast to early August in the eastern Borders) and the locations of any sensitive species and habitats with appropriate buffer zones to ensure their conservation. Where cutting rather than the application of herbicide is to be the means of control, the setting of buffer zones is unnecessary, but the map must show any areas with sensitive species and habitats and where birds are known to nest on the ground.

Bracken Eradiction As soon as the detailed BEP Management Plan has been prepared, complete and submit the SEPA application form for non-aerial spraying or standard SEPA multi-agency application form for aerial spraying as appropriate (with a copy of the BEP Management Plan scale map showing the area(s) to be treated) to SEPA and copies sent to SNH and the Local Authority Environmental Services. The applicant (or contractor) will need to allow the consultees at least 15 working days to consider and respond to the application for consent. Please note however that, where only mechanical control is to be used, the consultations/notifications requirements under the Control of Pesticides Regulations (1986) do not apply. A properly completed claim should be submitted for the first year's BEP management payment to SEERAD together with: letters of consent and the final version of the BEP Management Plan with SNH-approved map. Such a claim will not be considered valid unless accompanied by the required documentation. Primary treatment must be carried out in year 2, or in year 1 if all the requirements detailed in the paragraphs above have first been met. Primary treatment will involve either the application of Asulam (or other approved herbicide) at the full frond stage or cutting 3 times during the growing season. Cutting will cause greater ground disturbance and could damage, disturb or destroy nests, nestlings or sitting birds if carried out during the nesting season. Therefore, within areas immediately surrounding nest sites, the first cut should be administered by hand to minimise disturbance. It will be the applicant's responsibility to ensure that the required prior notice is given to all statutory consultees in advance of any aerial spraying and that the contractor is provided with a copy of the map to ensure that the treatment is carried out in accordance with the approved BEP management plan. Follow-up action will involve repeated annual treatment to clear any bracken re-growth. Where chemical control is used, such follow-up action normally requires a spot-treatment approach. If cutting is the method adopted, it is essential that the programme of three treatments a year continues for the duration of the BEP. For the follow-up treatment, mechanical methods may involve cutting, crushing or bruising. Only by repeated cutting of the bracken fronds will the food reserves in the plant's rhizomes be depleted sufficiently to cause its death.

3.2.3 It is not always appropriate or indeed desirable to clear bracken entirely from a site. Indeed, there are some situations in which bracken is best left alone:

  • in gullies or steep slopes where regeneration of more desirable vegetation will be difficult or impossible to achieve and soil erosion may result
  • over mires, gullies or within woodland where other plant species, e.g. ferns, and plant communities may be damaged
  • close to ponds, lochs or watercourses
  • on long-established dense stands of bracken where no other plant species has survived beneath the canopy and a programme of vegetation recovery is not feasible
  • where a low density of bracken cover can readily be maintained to conserve a valuable habitat for early flowering plants, e.g. bluebell and violet, ground-nesting birds, e.g. twite, and invertebrates, e.g. Pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly. The Pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly in Scotland is strongly associated with bracken and the caterpillar's sole foodplant violets, particularly Common dog-violet. Indeed, on many sites, bracken litter is critically important to the Pearl-bordered fritillary as it provides a warm microclimate for the development of the larvae in spring. For more information on the requirements of Pearl-bordered fritillary and its management, contact Butterfly Conservation Scotland, Balallan House, 24 Allan Park, Stirling, FK8 2QG (Tel: 01786 447753; e-mail: Scotland@butterfly-conservation.org ).

The locations of any such 'sensitive' sites with appropriate buffer zones must be marked on the BEP Management Plan map to ensure their conservation.

3.2.4 Clearing bracken from an area is a long-term project. A bracken eradication programme will involve the drawing up of a detailed BEP Management Plan in Year 1, aerial or ground-based chemical primary treatment or by cutting twice during the growing season in year 2 (or in year 1 if all the requirements have first been met) and aftercare spanning the remaining years of the RSS agreement. Such aftercare may involve annual spot-treatment of any bracken re-growth or, if mechanical control is adopted, continued twice-yearly cutting, also mechanical disturbance or gathering of the litter and stock control where necessary. If the agreement is renewed at the end of 5 years, the participant will be obliged to continue with the follow-up action on the areas addressed under the BEP during the first 5 years.

3.2.5 Bracken eradication should only be contemplated over an area where there is reasonable prospect of achieving the desired result within the timescale. For this reason, rather than attempt to treat too large an area at the outset, applicants should concentrate their efforts upon a number of small blocks - those where the regeneration of underlying vegetation is paramount. Where the bracken canopy cover exceeds 75% at full frond stage, it should be clearly demonstrated that vegetation of conservation interest would be enhanced through this measure. The optimum size of the area(s) to be tackled under the Bracken Eradication Programme will depend upon such factors as the methods that can be employed given the nature of the terrain and the anticipated availability of labour and equipment at the appropriate times.

3.2.6 An outline only of the maximum extent of the area(s) to be covered by the Bracken Eradication Programme (BEP) is to be drawn on the Environmental Audit map submitted as part of the application to join the RSS. This will allow SEERAD, when appraising the application, to verify that the bracken infestation exists at that location(s) and that it exists within an area of species-rich grassland, coastal or lowland heath or moorland with conservation interest.

It will be assumed that 15% of this area will not be treated with herbicide in order to protect sensitive species and habitats. Consequently, the figure used to calculate the payment for this prescription and therefore entered in column 3 or 4 (as appropriate) of Section III and also column 3 of Section IV of the Application Form, will be restricted to 85% of the area outlined on the EA map.

3.2.7 Forward planning is essential. This will involve applicants surveying each area and, based upon the results of the survey, establishing the methods to be employed to carry out both the primary and follow-up treatments and the resources required. The optimum period for mapping bracken frond density and coverage is at full frond stage (mid/late June on the West Coast to early August in the eastern Borders). The locations of any sensitive species and habitats need to be identified and appropriate buffer zones set.

<<Top of page