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Freudenberger L.,Eberswalde University Of Applied Sciences | Freudenberger L.,Center for Econics and Ecosystem Management | Hobson P.R.,University of Essex | Hobson P.R.,Center for Econics and Ecosystem Management | And 4 more authors.
Ecological Complexity | Year: 2012

The functionality of ecosystems is important for energy dissipation, ecosystem service provisioning, resilience to global change and adaptive capacity. Ecosystem complexity and ultimately functionality depend on higher levels of biodiversity, biomass, heterogeneity and evolutionary potential, such as genes. These characteristics are also likely to promote system resilience and adaptive capacity, which are becoming increasingly important under global climate change. This paper proposes a global proxy-based index of ecosystem functionality (EFI). The results generated for all the main global biomes recorded highest index values for tropical and extratropical forest ecoregions. Out of the selected variables vegetation density, topographical heterogeneity and carbon storage demonstrated strong correlations with the ecosystem functionality index. It is argued that the ecosystem functionality index is not only useful for ecological research and conservation science but also as an effective prioritization scheme for biodiversity conservation at the landscape scale in times of rapid global environmental change. Furthermore, ecosystems that express high ecosystem functionality are also believed to have greater buffer and adaptive capacity and it is proposed that these parameters help to identify those ecosystems that will contribute toward global sustainability. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.


Selva N.,Polish Academy of Sciences | Kreft S.,Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development | Kreft S.,Center for Econics and Ecosystem Management | Kati V.,University of Ioannina | And 7 more authors.
Environmental Management | Year: 2011

With increasing road encroachment, habitat fragmentation by transport infrastructures has been a serious threat for European biodiversity. Areas with no roads or little traffic ("roadless and low-traffic areas") represent relatively undisturbed natural habitats and functioning ecosystems. They provide many benefits for biodiversity and human societies (e.g., landscape connectivity, barrier against pests and invasions, ecosystem services). Roadless and low-traffic areas, with a lower level of anthropogenic disturbances, are of special relevance in Europe because of their rarity and, in the context of climate change, because of their contribution to higher resilience and buffering capacity within landscape ecosystems. An analysis of European legal instruments illustrates that, although most laws aimed at protecting targets which are inherent to fragmentation, like connectivity, ecosystem processes or integrity, roadless areas are widely neglected as a legal target. A case study in Germany underlines this finding. Although the Natura 2000 network covers a significant proportion of the country (16%), Natura 2000 sites are highly fragmented and most low-traffic areas (75%) lie unprotected outside this network. This proportion is even higher for the old Federal States (western Germany), where only 20% of the low-traffic areas are protected. We propose that the few remaining roadless and low-traffic areas in Europe should be an important focus of conservation efforts; they should be urgently inventoried, included more explicitly in the law and accounted for in transport and urban planning. Considering them as complementary conservation targets would represent a concrete step towards the strengthening and adaptation of the Natura 2000 network to climate change. © 2011 The Author(s).


Freudenberger L.,Center for Econics and Ecosystem Management | Freudenberger L.,Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development | Hobson P.R.,Center for Econics and Ecosystem Management | Hobson P.R.,Writtle College | And 12 more authors.
Landscape Ecology | Year: 2013

The expansion of roads, and the subsequent changes to the surrounding landscape not only lead to landscape fragmentation but also have been shown to be a key driver of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. Local declines of species abundance as well as changes in animal behaviour have drawn attention to wider ecosystem effects including altered species composition and a degradation of ecosystem functioning. However, methods for measuring and quantifying the distribution and environmental impacts of roads are not yet fully developed. We present a new technique for assessing the potential impacts of roads on biodiversity using a spatial road disturbance index (SPROADI). The index is calculated from three sub-indices: traffic intensity as a measure of traffic volume per time and space; vicinity impact, which is the assessment of edge effect of roads on adjacent habitats (the road-effect zone); and fragmentation grade, which provides an indication of the degree to which the landscape is intersected by roads. SPROADI was then tested using data from the Federal State of Brandenburg in north-eastern Germany. A sensitivity analysis was carried out on the results to assess the robustness of the index. The findings revealed expected patterns of high road disturbance in urban and peri-urban landscapes surrounding Berlin. Less obvious were the high levels of road density and impacts in forest plantations across the southern region of Brandenburg, and low levels of road disturbance in agricultural crop lands of the north-western region. Results were variable for areas under some form of protection. The only national park displayed substantially lower SPROADI values in contrast to the surrounding non-protected areas whilst other protected area categories, which were landscape conservation areas and nature parks, revealed SPROADI values that were equally high as those for non-protected areas. The results of this study demonstrate the strengths and potential applications of SPROADI as a quantitative means for identifying low-traffic areas in the context of conservation and sustainable transport planning. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


Norris C.,Writtle College | Norris C.,Center for Econics and Ecosystem Management | Hobson P.,Writtle College | Hobson P.,Center for Econics and Ecosystem Management | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Applied Ecology | Year: 2012

1.Resilient and functional landscapes are essential for climate change adaptation. Thermodynamic theory has been applied increasingly to ecological studies to understand ecosystem resilience and integrity. Resilient ecosystems have complex structure and greater levels of biomass and functional diversity, which act to enhance the degradation of solar energy. Forests that exhibit these characteristics express thermodynamic efficiency through a greater capacitance effect that promotes cooler surface temperatures under extreme weather conditions. 2.With forest disturbance, complex structures and functional linkages are simplified, reducing the capacity of the system to degrade energy. Such changes can lead to dysfunctional ecosystem states, impaired provision of ecosystem services and a weakened resilience. 3.This study has applied indicators based on thermodynamic theory to a chronosequence of forest ecosystems in the UK, Germany and Ukraine. Surface temperatures were measured to test thermodynamic theories relating to energy degradation and temperature moderation. Grime's CSR model was applied to plant data to compare functional complexity in vegetation between stands. 4.Old-growth woodlands are shown to attenuate surface temperature more effectively than native species plantations. Consistently lower temperatures were observed in European old-growth forests with high proportions of biomass when compared to managed stands of similar species composition, suggesting a greater efficiency of energy degradation in complex forest ecosystems, particularly at higher temperatures. 5.Analysis of plant species data using Grime's CSR model indicated that old-growth forests ordinate towards competitive and stress-tolerant communities in contrast to intensively managed forests, which had a greater proportion of generalist and ruderal species. High CSR functional scores were associated with moderated temperature extremes. 6.Synthesis and applications. Our results suggest an important thermodynamic basis for conservation in the context of climate change. Conservation practice and management policy, which is based on preserving ecosystem complexity and function, can aid in mitigating the effects of extreme temperatures, enhancing vital services such as climate regulation, primary production and water retention. Old-growth forests have a significant climate mitigation role alongside other recognised ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration. © 2011 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology © 2011 British Ecological Society.

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