Tuesday, 16 October 2012

ECN coming of age

The news this week of significant declines in ground beetle biodiversity in the UK followed a paper published last month in the Journal of Applied Ecology led by Rothamsted Research and involving  scientists from a range of other organisations, including CEH.  The scientists analysed 15 years of data from the UK's Environmental Change Network (ECN).

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:
Some ECN sites are locations for long-term monitoring coordinated by other networks, such as the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme and the Acid Waters Monitoring Network.

ECN data is available via the ECN website to support research, teaching, policy- and decision-making.

Related links

Environmental monitoring at CEH

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