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Programme, Day 1

The final programme

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ECN at 20 triptych narrow
Day 1

Monday 12 May



From 12:00

1. ECN in context

Terry Parr, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
A brief history of the future of the UK Environmental Change Network

When it was launched in 1992, ECN was in many ways ahead of its time. Its founders recognised the value of long-term, consistently collected, integrated data as an essential part of the research needed to provide the evidence base for decision making underpinning environmental management and the policy cycle. But is it still the case that ECN is an essential part of our research and evidence base? In this scene-setting talk, Terry will address this question by giving an insider’s view of how ECN has evolved since the early nineties and some thoughts on how it can and must continue to evolve over the next 20 years.

13:00 – 13:30

Don Monteith, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
How are our ecosystems standing up to the tests of time?:  the first 20 years of ECN

The UK Environmental Change Network was established principally to detect and understand the causes of environmental change across a broad range of habitats, ranging from lowland agricultural to montane systems. Placing the ECN sites in a longer historical context, Don will review the extent to which key environmental pressures on UK terrestrial habitats have changed over the last 20 years, how this is being reflected in ECN biogeochemical and ecological data and what the implications are for our understanding of the resilience or vulnerability of ecosystem processes and functions. He will also consider how the network may need to adapt to address the emerging interests of environmental science, policy and management.

13:30 – 14:00

Michael Mirtl, Chair of LTER-Europe
LTER-Europe: A European ecosystem research infrastructure contributing to a global network
Starting from a small number of sites in a few countries, LTER-Europe has matured to a network of 21 national LTER networks comprising about 400 sites and 35 LTSER platforms. Most of these sites were set up in different contexts and for varying purposes. They represent an infrastructure value of about 450m Euro, but the value of all data gathered over the past decades significantly exceeds this number. In the context of the ongoing discussion about European research infrastructures, LTER-Europe has become the major component representing exemplary observational ecosystem research across the European environmental and socio-ecological gradients. Michael will expand on the efforts and tools  to further transform LTER-Europe into a vibrant network of well documented and multiply-used sites,  site based teams and interoperable data with well-defined interfaces to other components of the European Research Area and the global LTER network (ILTER).
(This talk will be given via video link)

14:00– 14:20

2. Ecosystem level responses to changing pressures


Jan Dick, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Ecosystem services and socio-ecological considerations in the Cairngorms LTSER
Jan will present aspects of the socio-ecological science conducted in the Environmental Change Network and how this has led to the creation of a long-term socio-ecological research platform. The network has been active in creating and testing a range of indicators in both bottom-up and top-down approaches by using local, national and European datasets.  The importance of entrenching long term environmental monitoring at an individual site within the wider coupled socio-ecological system is highlighted in the creation of the UK’s first long-term social-ecological research (LTSER) platform, the Cairngorms National Park. This development signals the ambition of the Environmental Change Network to evolve and broaden its policy-relevant science to meet modern challenges.

14:20 – 14:40

Marc Stutter, James Hutton Institute
Nutrient cycling studies in the context of changing carbon ecosystems

Long term research at ECN sites provides a powerful basis on which to link experimental work with the knowledge and context gained from monitoring. The ability to understand the cycling of major nutrients across landscapes and waters is enhanced by the ECN’s combination of soil, water, climate and biodiversity data. A number of upland ECN sites have soils high in organic matter and the monitoring allows us to question whether and how the delivery of dissolved organic matter (DOM) to streams is changing. This DOM and the energy associated with the carbon is a fundamental parameter for stream ecosystems, affecting both the headwaters and receiving waters downstream catchments, with potential to impact on the cycling of nitrogen and phosphorus. Marc will present work drawing on ECN observations to examine trends in soil and water Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC) concentrations. This has been supplemented with experimental approaches on two streams at the ECN Glensaugh site. Cairn Burn has been manipulated with nutrient additions and compared to a control situation in the Birnie Burn to study nutrient cycling rates under changing carbon additions. The work has shaped ideas being developed under the current NERC Macronutrient Cycles Programme.

14:40 – 15:00

Tea & coffee

Session 2 continued...

15:00 – 15:30


Kasia Sawicka, University of Reading
Spatial and temporal patterns in soil water Dissolved Organic Carbon – new insight into long-term British monitoring plots

Over the past two decades increasing concentrations of Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC) in surface waters have been observed in many parts of Europe and North America. Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain these trends, including climate change, changes in land management, nutrient deposition and CO2 enrichment. Correlation analyses and evidence from laboratory studies have shown that declining sulphur deposition could be responsible for DOC increases, but the hypothesis is yet to be accepted universally. The plausible causes of observed increases in DOC concentrations in streams and lakes have their origin in soils and are dependent on soil processes. Kasia will present relationships between DOC in soil solution and surrogates for a range of potential climatic, chemical and land-use drivers over different spatial and temporal scales, using DOC data from 15 sites across the UK, from 1992 to 2010.
15:30 – 15:50

Simon Smart, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Predicting nitrogen impacts on species and habitat quality using a dynamic niche occupancy model

Nitrogen pollution has caused widespread loss of sensitive plant and lichen species, although effects are often insidious and the gradual loss of species may not be noticed. To plan monitoring, target mitigation measures, and make the case for emissions reductions, it is useful to be able to predict which species are currently at risk on a particular site. Simon will describe how the MADOC model of nitrogen and carbon dynamics was coupled to the MultiMOVE set of niche models for terrestrial plant and lichen species, and the coupled model calibrated for 18 sites using floristic records from the Environmental Change Network (ECN) and other long-term monitoring sites. He will present model output under different air pollution scenarios and show how long-term monitoring data can be used to develop and test models useful for large-scale scenario analysis. The MADOC-MultiMOVE model can be set up without extensive biogeochemical measurements, and has many potential applications in site monitoring and management.

15:50 – 16:10

Blaise Martay, British Trust for Ornithology
Are upland Lepidoptera communities more sensitive to impacts of climate change than lowland communities?

The impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems are increasingly evident. Range shifts and phenological changes have been seen across a wide range of taxa, accompanied by population declines and expansions. Community changes are also evident; generalist species are increasing, while declines are seen in species with less opportunity or ability to adapt through phenological plasticity and range shifts. However, we currently have little ability to predict where climate change will cause the greatest ecosystem disruption. Here we characterise species' response to climate change from butterfly and moth national monitoring schemes, and use this to examine the varying impact of climate change on communities in upland and lowland ECN sites.

16:10 – 16:30

Linda May, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
The importance of long term monitoring of aquatic systems - an example from Loch Leven

Loch Leven is a large, shallow lake in Scotland. It is an internationally important long term monitoring site, with more than 45 years of detailed records covering a wide range of chemical, physical and biological variables. In the early years, the lake had significant water quality problems caused by nutrient pollution. In the 1990s, a catchment management plan was put in place to reduce the external phosphorus (P) load and set restoration targets. As a result, P inputs fell by about 60%. Following a period of slow, but sustained, recovery, the lake has almost met statutory water quality targets in recent years. Changes that have been recorded include lower phosphorus and algal concentrations, increased water clarity, the re-establishment of aquatic plants in deeper water and increased abundance of some species of aquatic birds. The role of long-term monitoring data in identifying the drivers of water quality problems at the site, and in implementation of a restoration plan and assessment of its success, will be explored.


16:30 – 16:50

Evening poster session Posters and displays

16:50 – 18:30

Symposium dinner
County Private Dining Room
Pre-booking essential


19:00 for 19:30


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