Monitoring functionally-important plant diversity across Great Britain; the natural capital of common plants

Smart, Simon. 2017 Monitoring functionally-important plant diversity across Great Britain; the natural capital of common plants. Lancaster, NERC/Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, 13pp. (Unpublished)

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Why monitor common plants? •Common and dominant plants make a disproportionately large contribution to ecosystem service delivery and so comprise a vital part of the natural capital of the UK. They deliver cultural, provisioning, regulating and supporting services. •Monitoring their status, dynamics and drivers of change is therefore needed as an essential component of assessing natural capital in Britain. Where should common plants be monitored? •At present there is no extant scheme that measures the presence and abundance of common service-delivering plants in an unbiased sample of the British countryside and that builds on an existing time series of repeated surveys. •Revisiting a carefully selected subset of Countryside Survey squares and fixed plots would fill this gap and build efficiently on a time-series dating back to 1978. •A first priority should be the 5 random X plots with co-located soil measurements thus building on the nascent National Soil Monitoring program. •Because not all CS squares and plots need to be revisited, the cost is likely to be significantly less than a full repeat of CS. Which plants and metrics? •Presence and cover of plants directly linked to supporting, regulating, provisioning and cultural services can be derived from the existing time series and calculated for new repeat recording in fixed plots. •Up to date trends in many of these metrics have already been determined for Wales by linking CS data to the Glastir monitoring program. •The design of CS enables unbiased inference to the entirety of GB. Why can’t EO or other schemes do the job instead? •At the time of writing there are no EO products that can identify common plant species at the GB scale at fine resolution. No product is available that can identify plants under woodland or tall herbaceous canopies and if such products are in development they could presumably not produce a time series of such highly resolved estimates going back in time. •Other sectoral surveys focus on specific habitats and attributes and do not provide the holistic, cross-habitat perspectives exemplified by previous analysis of CS data. •NPMS sampling fills a critical gap in CS coverage since CS under-samples rarer priority habitats and these are efficiently targeted by volunteers in the NPMS. What should a partial repeat of CS comprise? •Prioritising recording of CS X plots would ensure that joint analysis of NPMS and CS data is possible going forward because of the common quadrat size available. It would also allow changes in metrics to be linked to change in soil conditions that are in turn linked to other drivers such as climate and pollution. •Priority should also be given to 1km squares and plots recorded in 1978 and in every survey since then. Ongoing analysis would still be able to take advantage of the much larger samples in 2007, 1998 and 1990. •Because independent QA surveys have been carried out in parallel to the main survey, detection probability can also be included in ongoing analysis of change in common plant metrics. Why co-locate measurements? Why continue the CS times-series and record vegetation and soil in the same place? •The most compelling reason in my view for continuing the time series is that spatio-temporal signatures of ecological change and their links to driving variables are more accurately characterised if observed over longer time periods. Because space often does not substitute for time, models will be more accurate if based on change over time rather than differences in space. •A growing time series better characterises previous change and the legacy effects of drivers enabling us to revisit and test hypotheses about biological homogenisation and recovery of common plants and the role of nearly 30 years of agri-environment intervention. •Extending the time series of recording in fixed plots means that the impacts of land-use change on common plant metrics and habitat conversion can be quantified with much more certainty than analysis of plots in different locations at different times. •Recording in the same repeated locations allows interactions between multiple drivers to be explored particularly when a pseudo-experimental design is applied. •Because of the close interdependence of soil and vegetation, co-located measurements provide unique power for exploring their joint sensitivity to global change and their joint contribution to ecosystem services.

Item Type: Publication - Report
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
Funders/Sponsors: NERC/Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 15 Jan 2019 14:59 +0 (UTC)

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