Understanding environmental change. Supporting environmental science
Over 30 peer-reviewed journal papers in 2010 acknowledged the use of ECN data
ECN's long-term data comprise a set of physical, chemical and biological variables which drive and respond to environmental change, and are made free available to those engaged in scientific research.
Each ECN site is maintained by dedicated site managers. They have an excellent understanding of the ecosystems at their sites, and use ECN and other available data to investigate trends, publish research findings and encourage and supervise research projects. They also collaborate on cross-network analyses of the data, supported by staff in the ECN Central Coordination Unit. Recent and on-going research by ECN partners includes:
- a comparison of ecosystem services delivered by eleven ECN sites
- an assessment of aquatic macrophyte community changes at Loch Leven
- investigations of the dynamics of carabid beetle populations
- a study of the effects of agri-environment schemes at Wytham Woods.
In 2009, a review of 15 years of records from ECN terrestrial sites was published in Biological Conservation*.
ECN sites as research bases
ECN sites are staffed by dedicated site managers with an in-depth understanding of the ecosystems at their sites
Several ECN sites are currently used as bases for field research. For example, Moor House-Upper Teesdale is a focus for research on peatland carbon dynamics and hosts research teams from several universities and research institutes. ECN Snowdon and ECN Cairngorms both support active research communities investigating upland ecosystems, whilst Rothamsted, North Wyke, Alice Holt and Wytham all host researchers studying lowland agricultural and woodland systems.
Developing new monitoring approaches
ECN staff are also developing new methods for environmental monitoring. For example, teams at ECN Moor House-Upper Teesdale and ECN Cairngorms are trialling the use of motion- and heat-triggered cameras, bird song recorders and advanced bat detectors to investigate the ecology of mammal and bird populations in remote upland habitats.
ECN has been used as a model for a new network - the Environmental Change Biodiversity Network (ECBN) - which is now under development. Data from ECBN sites is being managed by the ECN Data Centre.
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* Morecroft, MD., Bealey, CE., Beaumont, DA., Benham, S., Brooks, DR., Burt, TP., Critchley, CNR., Dick, J., Littlewood, NA., Monteith, DT., Scott, WA., Smith, RI., Walmsley, C. and Watson, H. (2009). The UK Environmental Change Network: Emerging trends in the composition of plant and animal communities and the physical environment. Biological Conservation, 142, 2814-2832.