Swaling, the controlled burning of heath or moorland, is a centuries-old practice used to thin out gorse and scrub. Largely, this is with a view to creating suitable grazing for livestock on what is otherwise unprofitable land. Though you would have difficulty arguing that wildfires occur naturally in UK moorland, there is also a conservation argument for these controlled burns. Swaling razes the taller European Gorse, allowing its squatter western cousin and Heather to re-establish. This new growth provides the perfect environment for arthropods to thrive; including rare weevils, the endangered High Brown Fritillary butterflies, grasshoppers, crane flies and Burnet moths. Being more penetrable, the foliage of the recolonising plants offers preferred accommodation for mammals and birds too, with populations of Dartford Warblers returning to swaled areas. 

If left unburned, this habitat would see young Birch colonisers, eventually turning to young woodland. Whether or not habitats are there to be managed and preserved - suspended as people recognise them and for the benefit of the particular wildlife that rely on it, or to cycle through the ecosystem's successive stages is a bitterly contested argument within the fields of  conservation biology and environmental management. 


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