The heathland

Heathland is a cultural landscape with outstanding natural value; the result of prolonged grazing on soil that is poor in nutrients. Artificial fertilisers signalled an end to the deep litter stable, and destroyed the shepherd’s livelihood.

It was no longer necessary to mix cut peat sods and manure. Nutrients in the rainwater cause overgrassing, whereby the purple moor grass gradually represses the heather. Without the active management of grazing and peat cutting, the lower heathland would gradually and spontaneously change to forest. Calluna heather dominates dry sandy soil.

‘Vadose water’

Most of the Sallandse Heuvelrug is high and dry. Because the soil mainly consists of sand, it is home to plant species that can survive in an environment that is dry and poor in nutrients.

Calluna vulgaris heather dominates the dry areas and erica carnea heather and purple moor grass thrive in places with a little more moisture and clay. Generally speaking, there is not much biodiversity on heathland, but it is extraordinary nonetheless. The juniper shrub is a striking addition, forming dense thickets in places. A rough sand subsoil and a top layer of fine sand means that the higher forest and heathland vegetation does not get its nourishment from the groundwater, sometimes dozens of metres below. In the top layer, vegetation depends on so-called ‘vadose water’ (surface water): precipitation retained in the upper soil layer. The majority of nutrients in precipitation sink into the sand along with the water and have little or no effect on the food supply for trees and plants.

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