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Symposium marks 20 years of research and monitoring at ECN’s terrestrial sites

Seventy people from across the UK attended ECN’s recent symposium in Lancaster, held to mark the 20th anniversary of data collection and research at ECN’s longest-running terrestrial sites.

Proceedings began with a series of scene-setting talks, including from Dr Michael Mirtl of the Austrian Environment Agency who talked via video link about the continued development of long-term ecosystem research (LTER) in Europe. Michael currently chairs LTER-Europe, a multi-national network that ECN helped to establish.

Further speakers presented a wide range of research made possible by ECN’s long-term data, including work on forest carbon management, dissolved organic carbon in upland areas, nitrogen impacts on vegetation, impacts of climate change on moths and butterflies and changes in farmland ecological communities. We also heard about ECN’s role in helping to understand nutrient cycling, to assess changes in ecosystem services and to inform climate change adaptation strategies.

Our keynote speaker, Dr Helen Pontier of Defra, talked enthusiastically of ECN’s role as a provider of much-needed scientific evidence in a range of policy areas, including responding to climate change, tackling nitrogen pollution and safeguarding biodiversity.

One speaker addressed the implications for ECN of the growth and popularity of citizen science. Delegates also heard about on-going work to develop ECN’s data management system to meet current and future needs.

Although the event focussed on ECN’s terrestrial sites and datasets, two talks also considered the importance of long-term monitoring of aquatic ecosystems and opportunities to develop ECN’s role in freshwater ecosystem research.

Following a presentation about the challenges and opportunities for environmental monitoring, as perceived by the UK Environmental Observation Framework, we concluded with a lively discussion about how ECN should develop further. Suggestions made by those in the room will help to shape ECN’s continued evolution.

The ECN Central Coordination Unit are grateful to all ECN’s sponsors and research partners who helped make the event a success, by providing speakers and poster displays, and by attending the symposium to discuss ECN

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