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Environmental Change Biodiversity Network (ECBN)

Information about the monitoring and research network closely linked to ECN

Derbyshire Dales. Photo: Natural England

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 UK research programme and network of sites to address this issue were developed in a project led by the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.  Since then, Automatic Weather Stations have been installed at English and Welsh sites, forming the Environmental Change Biodiversity Network (ECBN), which is closely linked to the existing Environmental Change Network, substantially increasing its spatial coverage across the UK.

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 ideal network should 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 proposed a network consisting of 100 sites (including the existing ECN terrestrial sites), with an option to establish an initial smaller network of around 40 new sites.Currently most sites are in England and Wales.
  • Sites included in the network should have stable management and high conservation value. We proposed that National Nature Reserves should form the core of the network.
  • Data are stored centrally within the Data Centre managed by ECN.
  • The monitoring programme should be associated with a programme of data analysis and interpretation, to both identify changes and test what is causing them.
  • Links will be established with experimental and modelling programmes as well as other national and international monitoring programmes.

What kind of sites are included?

The network consists 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.

Old Winchester. Photo: Natural England

Currently ECBN comprises:

The current ECBN sites are shown the site map on our Data Centre website. Select only 'ECBN' sites from the menu. The 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.

Extensive data are available for existing ECN sites and data are being collected from some of the non-ECN sites (mainly meteorological data). Additional data collection is dependent on additional funding.

More information is available about the English sites, which are operated by Natural England and form NE's Long-Term Monitoring Network (LTMN).

Benefits of the ECBN

The ECBN 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.

Who was involved in the scoping project?

Snowdon - 04-04-2012The scoping 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.

The network's scoping report is: 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. | Download report...

How can I find out more?

Further details about the ECBN may be obtained from Andrew Sier, ECN CCU. To enquire about Natural England's LTMN please contact the LTMN mailbox

An article about the ECBN network concept appeared in issue 17 of ECN News (2006).