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Hillsborough, United Kingdom

Monteith D.,Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Henrys P.,Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Banin L.,Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Smith R.,Center for Ecology and Hydrology | And 22 more authors.
Ecological Indicators | Year: 2016

We characterised temporal trends and variability in key indicators of climate and atmospheric deposition chemistry at the twelve terrestrial UK Environmental Change Network (ECN) sites over the first two decades of ECN monitoring (1993-2012) using various statistical approaches. Mean air temperatures for the monitoring period were approximately 0.7. °C higher than those modelled for 1961-1990, but there was little evidence for significant change in air temperature over either the full monthly records or within individual seasons. Some upland ECN sites, however, warmed significantly over the first decade before cooling in the second. Summers at most sites became progressively wetter, and extremes in daily rainfall increased in magnitude. Average wind speeds in winter and spring declined at the majority of sites. Directional trends in summer precipitation could be linked to an atypically prolonged negative deviation in the summer North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) Index. Several aspects of air quality improved markedly. Concentrations and fluxes of sulphate in precipitation declined significantly and substantially across the network, particularly during the earlier years and at the most polluted sites in the south and east. Precipitation concentrations of nitrate and ammonium, and atmospheric concentrations of nitrogen dioxide also decreased at most sites. There was less evidence for reductions in the loads of wet deposited nitrogen species, while trends in atmospheric ammonia concentration varied in direction and strength between sites. Reductions in acid deposition are likely to account for widespread gradual increases in the pH of soil water at ECN sites, representing partial recovery from acidification. Overall, therefore, ECN sites have experienced marked changes in atmospheric chemistry and weather regimes over the last two decades that might be expected to have exerted detectable effects on ecosystem structure and function. While the downward trend in acid deposition is unlikely to be reversed, it is too early to conclude whether the trend towards wetter summers simply represents a phase in a multi-decadal cycle, or is indicative of a more directional shift in climate. Conversely, the first two decades of ECN now provide a relatively stable long-term baseline with respect to air temperature, against which effects of anticipated future warming on these ecosystems should be able to be assessed robustly. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd.

Rose R.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Monteith D.T.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Henrys P.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Smart S.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | And 20 more authors.
Ecological Indicators | Year: 2016

We analysed trends in vegetation monitored at regular intervals over the past two decades (1993-2012) at the twelve terrestrial Environmental Change Network (ECN) sites. We sought to determine the extent to which flora had changed and link any such changes to potential environmental drivers. We observed significant increases in species richness, both at a whole network level, and when data were analysed within Broad Habitat groupings representing the open uplands, open lowlands and woodlands. We also found comparable increases in an indicator of vegetation response to soil pH, Ellenberg R. Species characteristic of less acid soils tended to show more consistent increases in frequency across sites relative to species with a known tolerance for strongly acidic soils. These changes are, therefore, broadly consistent with a response to increases in soil solution pH observed for the majority of ECN sites that, in turn, are likely to be driven by large reductions in acid deposition in recent decades. Increases in species richness in certain habitat groupings could also be linked to increased soil moisture availability in drier lowland sites that are likely to have been influenced by a trend towards wetter summers in recent years, and possibly also to a reduction in soil nitrogen availability in some upland locations. Changes in site management are also likely to have influenced trends at certain sites, particularly with respect to agricultural practices. Our results are therefore indicative of widescale responses to major regional-scale changes in air pollution and recent weather patterns, modified by local management effects. The relative consistency of management of ECN sites over time is atypical of much of the wider countryside and it is therefore not appropriate to scale up these observations to infer national scale trends. Nevertheless the results provide an important insight into processes that may be operating nationally. It will now be necessary to test for the ubiquity of these changes using appropriate broader spatial scale survey data. © 2016.

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