The researchers found that declines were at their worst at sites studied on mountains, in upland moorland in the north and in pasture in the west. The very nature of the Environmental Change Network allowed such a study to be carried out. Its network of sites includes 12 terrestrial and 45 freshwater locations around the UK, covering a wide range of upland and lowland habitats including moorland, chalk grassland, woods and forests, farmland, small ponds and streams, large rivers and lakes.
It is timely to recognise the work of the ECN, as this year marks the 20th anniversary of its establishment - although monitoring at many of its sites goes back much further.
Wytham Woods in Oxfordshire is an ECN terrestrial
site managed by CEH.
Long-term monitoring data is regularly used in CEH research and the ECN, which CEH coordinates, is an important provider of such data, making regular measurements of plant and animal communities and their physical and chemical environment. Although annual or shorter trends can reveal much that is interesting, long-term data, over decades, is crucial for offering assessments less affected by annual fluctuations or one-off incidents and identifying environmental change over longer periods of time.
Here are just a few other recent examples where ECN data has been used by CEH researchers:
- a paper in the Journal of Vegetation Science (2011), which highlighted how shifts in vegetation and soil composition were clearly identifiable in the Snowdon area after 40 years, consistent with ecosystem degradation due to acidification;
- the ECN Cairngorms site was used in studies of European mountain vegetation responses to climate change with findings published in Nature Climate Change;
- Among the many sources of evidence considered for the recent Review of Transboundary Air Pollution (RoTAP) report were soil water chemistry data from three non-agricultural ECN terrestrial sites (Glensaugh and Sourhope in Scotland, and Moor House in England), as well as ECN vegetation data;
- Loch Leven has been a site of environmental monitoring for more than 40 years, with research here important not only for the health of the loch itself, but which contributes to lake and catchment management strategies at sites around the world.
ECN data is available via the ECN website to support research, teaching, policy- and decision-making.
Environmental monitoring at CEH