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Environmental Change Biodiversity Network (ECBN)

Information about a developing monitoring and research network closely linked to ECN

Climate change and air pollution are likely to cause substantial changes in ecosystems.  It is important that these changes are monitored, so that policy and management techniques can be developed to minimise adverse impacts on biodiversity on the basis of reliable scientific evidence.  Plans for a new UK research programme and network of sites to address this issue were developed in a project led by the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.  The Environmental Change Biodiversity Network (ECBN) will be linked to the existing Environmental Change Network, substantially increasing its spatial coverage across the UK.

Some steps have already been taken to establish ECBN. For example, automatic weather stations have been installed at some English and Welsh sites.

The report, Morecroft, M. et al., (2006). Targeted Monitoring of Air Pollution and Climate Change Impacts on Biodiversity. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology,1 may be accessed here.

What kind of network is the ECBN?

Testing whether climate change, air pollution or another factor, such as changing management patterns, is the cause of an ecological change is central to the design of the network, which has been based on the following premises:

  • Climate and aspects of air pollution will be monitored together with aspects of biodiversity, such as vegetation composition and populations of selected animal groups.
  • The network will cover the whole of the UK with sufficient number of sites to ensure that results are representative and that similar habitats can be compared in areas with contrasting climate and pollution conditions.  We have proposed a network consisting of 100 sites (including the 12 existing ECN terrestrial sites), with an option to establish an initial smaller network of around 40 new sites.
  • Sites included in the network will have stable management and high conservation value.  It is proposed that National Nature Reserves should form the core of the network.
  • Data will be stored centrally within the Data Centre managed by ECN.
  • The monitoring programme will be associated with a programme of data analysis and interpretation, to both identify changes and test what is causing them.
  • Linkages will be established with experimental and modelling programmes as well as other national and international monitoring programmes.

What kind of sites will be included?

The proposal is for a network consisting primarily of National Nature Reserves. However, other sites which meet certain criteria (such as possessing the right target habitats, and with stable ownership and management) could be included.  The site network is intended to progressively expand across the UK over the coming years.  A map showing the sites suitable for inclusion in the proposed network is available.

Benefits of the new network

The proposed new network will inform the UK's implementation of European legislation such as the Habitats Directive and Birds Directive, by providing information on the causes of change in protected areas.  In particular, it will contribute to the knowledge base required for the development of new policy instruments aimed at enabling biodiversity conservation to adapt to climate change and minimising the impacts of air pollution.  It will also provide valuable information about the state of the individual sites in the network.

When will monitoring begin?

Some data are already being collected, mainly meteorological data from some English and Welsh sites. Additional data collection requires full establishment of the network, which requires additional funding.

Who was involved in the project?

The project was funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Natural England and the Natural Resources Wales.  The project was led by the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.  Statistical input was provided by Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland and staff from the following UK conservation agencies, universities and research organisations also contributed to the project: British Trust for Ornithology; Environment Agency; Forest Research; Rothamsted Research at North Wyke; Joint Nature Conservation Committee; The James Hutton Institute; Rothamsted Research; Scottish Environment Protection Agency; Scottish Govermment; Scottish Natural Heritage; University of Liverpool; University of Oxford; University of York.  Several of the key organisations, such as CEH, Defra and the statutory conservation agencies are now actively following up the project with further activities in a bid to move towards establishing a network.

How can I find out more?

Further details about the proposed network may be obtained from Andrew Sier, ECN CCU (

An article about the proposed new network appeared in issue 17 of ECN News.

1 This report should be cited as: Morecroft, M.D., Sier, A.R.J., Elston, D.A., Nevison, I.M., Hall, J.R., Rennie, S.C., Parr, T.W. and Crick, H.Q.P. (2006). Targeted Monitoring of Air Pollution and Climate Change Impacts on Biodiversity. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. 78pp.