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Henrys P.A.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Stevens C.J.,Open University Milton Keynes | Stevens C.J.,Lancaster University | Smart S.M.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | And 7 more authors.
Biogeosciences | Year: 2011

Large areas of Great Britain currently have nitrogen (N) deposition at rates which exceed the thresholds above which there is risk of damage to sensitive components of the ecosystem (critical loads). Previous studies have focussed primarily on the relationship of species richness to nitrogen, whereas here we look at individual species. We used data from two national observation networks over Great Britain to examine the response of individual vascular plant species to N in acid grasslands, calcareous grasslands and heathlands. Presence absence records of individual species, along with mean Ellenberg N scores, within 10 km hectads were modelled against N deposition whilst at the same time controlling for the effects of climate, land use and sulphur deposition using generalised additive models. Ellenberg N showed a significant increase with increasing N deposition in almost all habitats across both surveys indicating increased fertility. Many individual species showed strong relationships with N deposition and clear negative trends in species prevalence to increasing nitrogen were found in all habitats. A number of these species were either habitat dominants or possessed traits known to be influential in controlling ecosystem function. Many community dominants showing significant negative relationships with N deposition highlight a potentially significant loss of function. Some species that showed negative relationships to N showed signs of decline at low levels, far below the current critical load levels. Some species also showed continuous changes as N deposition levels rose above the current critical load values. This work contributes to the growing evidence base suggesting species level impacts at low N deposition values. © 2011 Author(s).

Gillingham P.K.,Bournemouth University | Gillingham P.K.,University of York | Bradbury R.B.,Center for Conservation Science | Roy D.B.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | And 22 more authors.
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society | Year: 2015

A cornerstone of conservation is the designation and management of protected areas (PAs): locations often under conservation management containing species of conservation concern, where some development and other detrimental influences are prevented or mitigated. However, the value of PAs for conserving biodiversity in the long term has been questioned given that species are changing their distributions in response to climatic change. There is a concern that PAs may become climatically unsuitable for those species that they were designated to protect, and may not be located appropriately to receive newly-colonizing species for which the climate is improving. In the present study, we analyze fine-scale distribution data from detailed resurveys of seven butterfly and 11 bird species in Great Britain aiming to examine any effect of PA designation in preventing extinctions and promoting colonizations. We found a positive effect of PA designation on species' persistence at trailing-edge warm range margins, although with a decreased magnitude at higher latitudes and altitudes. In addition, colonizations by range expanding species were more likely to occur on PAs even after altitude and latitude were taken into account. PAs will therefore remain an important strategy for conservation. The potential for PA management to mitigate the effects of climatic change for retracting species deserves further investigation. © 2015 The Linnean Society of London.

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