As part of our SOMM project to restore the fen meadow of Mosstown Marsh, several of our Konik ponies have been wearing tracking collars, to give us some idea of where they prefer to go. Analysing this data in relation to the management regime in the various areas of the project and the effect of this on the regrowth of Juncus rush is proving interesting.

 

Initial data came from one collar  which uplinked directly to a mobile phone several times a day, giving a series of plots covering his movements for several months. While this revealed a general picture (including an indication of when we confined the ponies to the south end of the marsh, and when they were allowed north of the fences), it was a very broad-brush picture of what was going on.

 

 

Pony wearing tracking collar                                                  

 

 

 

Three months worth of data collection

 

For a more detailed picture of where the ponies were grazing, several other collars were used which saved, rather than transmitted the data, and were sent off to have it downloaded after a year. These have now been refurbished and refitted for more data collection. Comparing this grazing information to where the rushes have or have not been mown over the past two years gives us a much more detailed picture; in fact we now have so much data that we are in discussions with Glasgow University about assistance with the analysis!

Height and density of rushes has been measured in quadrats spread across the project area, to compare the different management regimes. These include mown one year and grazed, mown two years and grazed, just grazed, just mown, neither mown nor grazed, including control areas.

Map of project area showing areas mown in 2014 and 2015

Map showing composite data from tracking collars downloaded in September 2015

Ponies continue grazing the fen meadow, particularly enjoying the fresh growth of Juncus where it was cut earlier in the year; it seems that these are the areas they prefer, and where they have the most impact. There are some anomalies, however, and these will bear further scrutiny. (These do not include those tracks shown where the ponies appear to have escaped!)

The data below clearly shows that the area with the shortest Juncus has been cut in both years and constantly grazed – not surprising but nice to see the figures backing it up. The first column shows an average of the maximum height of individual rush stems and the second an average of the support provided by the stems – an indication of density.

Data from Sept/Oct 2015

Max height

Support

Mown 2014 and 2015 - Grazed

24.39

13.06

Mown 2014 and 2015 - Ungrazed

26.40

17.23

Mown 2015 - Grazed

31.10

10.69

Mown 2014 - Grazed

57.73

22.43

Unmown - Grazed

58.44

31.94

Mown 2014- Ungrazed

77.03

40.03

Unmown - Ungrazed

90.74

58.85

Here is the data from Nov/Dec 2014 for comparison

Data from Nov 2014

Height

Support

Mown Grazed

28.30

13.74

Mown Ungrazed

36.75

12.29

Unmown Grazed

56.86

25.56

Unmown Ungrazed

71.70

35.50

 

Sward stick used to measure height and support


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