Gwynedd, United Kingdom
Gwynedd, United Kingdom

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Chambers F.M.,University of Gloucestershire | Cloutman E.W.,University of Gloucestershire | Daniell J.R.G.,University of Gloucestershire | Mauquoy D.,University of Aberdeen | Jones P.S.,Countryside Council for Wales
Biodiversity and Conservation | Year: 2013

For ecosystems perceived as degraded, but for which the causal factors or timescales for the degradation are disputed or not known, long-term (palaeo-)ecological records may aid understanding and lead to more meaningful conservation approaches. To help 'bridge the gap' between (very) long-term ecology and contemporary ecology for practical application, there have been calls for working relationships to be established between palaeoecologists and conservation ecologists. One environment in which this has been attempted is blanket mire. Many blanket mires in Europe are degraded and contain few sphagna. In South Wales, almost all exhibit symptoms of degradation, with dominance by purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea) widespread. We used palaeoecological techniques on three peat profiles in the Brecon Beacons to investigate vegetation history of high-altitude blanket mire to help assess the relative contribution of various factors in mire degradation and to inform strategies for mire conservation and restoration management. We found that declines in sphagna preceded the rise to dominance of monocotyledons. Macrofossil records showed that although Molinia was already present on the Beacons before the start of the industrial revolution, its major rise to dominance in one profile was within the 20th Century, coincident with evidence for local fire. In another profile, it was out-competed by Eriophorum vaginatum after the start of the industrial revolution; there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that a reduction in burning contributed to the rise in E. vaginatum. Conservation management to reduce the current local dominance of both Eriophorum and Molinia is supported by the palaeoecological data, but severe erosion and hagging of peat will constrain practical methods for achieving this on the Beacons until the peat is stabilised. We suggest that palaeoecological techniques have wider applicability in conservation. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


Mainstone C.P.,Natural England | Thomas R.,Countryside Council for Wales | Bean C.W.,Scottish Natural Heritage | Waterman T.,UK Environment Agency
Fisheries Management and Ecology | Year: 2012

Abstract An outline is given of the scale and nature of special wildlife designations in the UK river network, the general approach of the UK conservation agencies to their evaluation and management, and the specific way in which impacts of river flows are handled. The need for a holistic ecological and biodiversity view of water resource impacts on river systems is stressed, within which the specific needs of individual species, such as Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., can be framed. An approach founded on the provision of a natural flow regime within a natural physical channel not only provides the most suitable conditions for characteristic riverine wildlife to flourish but also provides the best local defence against global climate change. Arguments are made for a future focus on the generic evidence base for flow targets and its strengthening through strategic and demonstrably fit-for-purpose research. The practical constraints to an approach based on protection of the natural flow regime are discussed. Ultimately, transparent separation and consideration of what river ecosystems really need, and what can realistically be provided, is the key to shared ownership of the water resource dilemma. © 2011 Crown copyright.


Jones L.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Nizam M.S.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Nizam M.S.,National University of Malaysia | Reynolds B.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | And 2 more authors.
Environmental Pollution | Year: 2013

This study investigated potential ammonia impacts on a sand dune nature reserve 600 m upwind of an intensive poultry unit. Ammonia concentrations and total nitrogen deposition were measured over a calendar year. A series of ammonia and nitrogen exposure experiments using dune grassland species were conducted in controlled manipulations and in the field. Ammonia emissions from the intensive poultry unit were detected up to 2.8 km upwind, contributing to exceedance of critical levels of ammonia 800 m upwind and exceedance of critical loads of nitrogen 2.8 km upwind. Emissions contributed 30% of the total N load in parts of the upwind conservation site. In the nitrogen exposure experiments, plants showed elevated tissue nitrogen contents, and responded to ammonia concentrations and nitrogen deposition loads observed in the conservation site by increasing biomass. Estimated long-term impacts suggest an increase in the soil carbon pool of 9% over a 50-year timescale. © 2013 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Howe M.A.,Countryside Council for Wales | Knight G.T.,World Museum | Clee C.,World Museum
Journal of Coastal Conservation | Year: 2010

Although most UK sand dune systems are now fossilized, with little mobility and reducing amounts of bare sand, they support important populations and assemblages of terrestrial invertebrates. Offering open conditions, warm substrates and a range of habitats and habitat structures, they have become increasingly significant as other coastal habitats have been lost. In Wales, 680 Red Data Book and Nationally Scarce species have been recorded from dunes. 109 species in the UK are restricted to dunes, and in Wales there are an additional 145 species confined to dunes and 208 species strongly associated with dunes. Of these, 172 species are dependent upon bare and sparsely-vegetated sand, in grey dunes and early-successional dune grassland, at some stage of their life cycle, rising to 292 species if those associated with the strandline, foredunes, yellow dunes and pioneer dune slacks are included, equating to 63% of the 462 dune species. Bees and wasps are particularly well represented, with 278 species (68% of the Welsh fauna) recorded on Welsh dunes, including 17 obligates and 44 species with a strong dependence, 52 of which are associated with bare and sparsely-vegetated sand. Key to maintaining invertebrate populations on UK dunes is the provision of bare sand but in Wales, bare sand accounts for only 1.7% of the total sand dune resource. As a more appropriate bare sand threshold is likely to range between 10 and 30%, radical action is required to re-mobilize at least the key sand dune systems. © 2009 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.


Mcgovern S.,Bangor University | Mcgovern S.,Aberystwyth University | Evans C.D.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Dennis P.,Aberystwyth University | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Vegetation Science | Year: 2011

Question: Few long-term studies exist with integrated vegetation and soil composition data, coupled with detailed environmental driver records. Can changes in community composition in an upland grassland be identified by revisitation after a 40-year period and allow the main environmental drivers of change to be identified? Location: Snowdon, Wales, UK. Methods: Changes in plant community and soil composition were assessed by resurveying an upland Agrostis-Festuca grassland in 2008, 40 years after the original survey. PCA and ecological indicators were used to determine changes in plant community composition. Redundancy analysis (RDA) allowed the impact of soil chemical composition on the vegetation community to be assessed. Results: A significant shift in community composition was found between years. A 35% reduction in species richness and an increase in the grass:forb ratio, suggest significant ecosystem degradation. Indicator values suggest acidification of the community with an increased acidity preference of species recorded in 2008. However, soil pH measurements showed that soil pH had increased. RDA suggested that the main shifts in species composition were correlated with an increase in pH and a reduction in soil exchangeable base cation concentration. Clear ecosystem responses to climate, land-use change or nitrogen enrichment were not observed. Conclusions: Shifts in vegetation and soil composition are clearly identifiable after 40 years. The shifts in community composition are consistent with ecosystem degradation due to acidification during the period between surveys. Ecological indicator values and soil chemical composition displayed differing degrees of change. Whilst soils appear to be recovering from historic effects of sulphur deposition, vegetation community composition changes appear to lag behind those in soil chemistry. © 2011 International Association for Vegetation Science.


May L.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Spears B.M.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Dudley B.J.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Hatton-Ellis T.W.,Countryside Council for Wales
Journal of Environmental Monitoring | Year: 2010

Llangorse Lake is the largest natural lake in South Wales, UK, and is of European conservation importance. The site has a long history of eutrophication problems and, in recent years, significant efforts have been made to meet water quality restoration targets at this site by reducing the input of phosphorus (P) from external sources. Although the lake has improved substantially in quality since the late 1970s, it is still not meeting its ecological targets. Phosphorus concentrations have remained high and there has been little reduction in algal biomass. Management decisions to reduce P input were originally based on the widely held assumption that shallow lakes are P-limited in summer. However, this study clearly shows that this is not always the case; Llangorse Lake, at least, is strongly nitrogen (N) limited over the summer months. As a result, bio-available P released from the sediments cannot be used by the phytoplankton population. So, it accumulates in the water column, causing very high concentrations to occur in late summer. This puts the lake at very high risk of developing algal blooms when N availability increases, usually in early autumn. The study also found that the hydrology of the lake was strongly affected by sub-surface flow. This suggested that nutrients and water could be delivered to the lake from areas beyond the topographically defined surface water catchment. These findings have widespread implications for the successful management of external inputs to lakes, which currently tends to focus on management of the surface water catchment only. The results are discussed in relation to the restoration and management of nitrogen-limited lakes, and of those that are significantly affected by sub-surface flow. © 2010 The Royal Society of Chemistry.


Klapwijk M.J.,University of Oxford | Chris Grobler B.,University of Oxford | Ward K.,University of Oxford | Wheelerw D.,Countryside Council for Wales | Lewis O.T.,University of Oxford
Global Change Biology | Year: 2010

As the climate warms, many species are showing altered phenology patterns, potentially disrupting synchrony between interacting species. Recent studies have documented disrupted synchrony in plant-herbivore and predator-prey interactions. However, studies investigating climate-related asynchrony in host-parasitoid interactions and exploring the relative responses of interacting hosts and parasitoids to climate change are lacking. This is an important gap in knowledge given the ubiquity of insect parasitoids and their importance in influencing the abundance and dynamics of their hosts. In the threatened marsh fritillary butterfly Euphydryas aurinia (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) and its specialized parasitoid, Cotesia bignellii (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) phenological synchrony (and consequently population fluctuations) are thought to be weather-dependent. To assess the likely influence of climate and microenvironment change on synchrony between E. aurinia and C. bignellii, we experimentally manipulated the exposure of sensitive-stage host larvae and parasitoid pupae to temperature (ambient or elevated) and shading (shaded or unshaded) regimes. We also analysed a 20-year population dynamic dataset from the United Kingdom for E. aurinia to investigate whether population variations could be explained by interannual variations in the thermal and sunshine environment. Development times were affected significantly by the experimental temperature and shading treatments for E. aurinia but not for C. bignellii. However, the contrasting responses were insufficient to significantly affect host availability for parasitoids. In the field, thermal and sunshine conditions did not influence population fluctuations, and population variations across a large (UK-wide) scale were uncorrelated. Changes to the thermal and sunshine environment of the magnitude investigated in our experiment and within the range experienced by wild E. aurinia populations over the last 20-years thus seem unlikely to cause breakdown in host-parasitoid synchrony. We suggest that experiments investigating the mechanistic responses of interacting species to environmental change are needed to support the analysis and interpretation of observational data on species' phenology. © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


Brocas W.M.,Bangor University | Reynolds D.J.,Bangor University | Butler P.G.,Bangor University | Richardson C.A.,Bangor University | And 3 more authors.
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology | Year: 2013

Cross-dated chronologies derived from internal growth increments in the shells of the long-lived bivalve, the dog cockle Glycymeris glycymeris (Linnaeus, 1758), live-collected from two different sites off the east (1997) and south (2009) coasts of the Isle of Man respectively, are described. The chronologies, developed from ten individuals from each site, were found to be statistically robust (Expressed Population Signal (EPS) = 0.87 and 0.94 respectively) with a significant common growth signal despite their location 27. km apart (R = 0.53; N = 49, P = < 0.0001). The period of common growth between the two chronologies is consistent with the 12-year difference in their dates of collection thus providing evidence of an annual periodicity of growth line formation. Significant positive correlations were identified between the chronology indices from both the southern (R = 0.55, N = 58, P = < 0.0001) and eastern sites (R = 0.64, N = 68, P = < 0.0001) and mean January to September sea surface temperatures. A significant positive correlation was also found between the southern site and the winter North Atlantic Oscillation index (R = 0.43; N = 49, P = 0.0009). These data indicate that annual growth increments in the shells of G. glycymeris have the potential to be used as a scleroclimatological archive. © 2012.


Jones M.L.M.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Sowerby A.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Rhind P.M.,Countryside Council for Wales
Journal of Coastal Conservation | Year: 2010

Newborough Warren is a large calcareous west coast UK dune system, which has experienced rapid vegetation spread in the last 70 years. Information from two high resolution chronosequences for dry and wet dune habitats, 0-145 years, was used to answer the following questions: Does climate influence colonisation of vegetation on bare sand? What are the timescales and sequences of successional change in the vegetation? Analysis of aerial photographs showed that stabilisation of the dune system since 1945 has occurred in three main phases. The onset of stabilisation predated myxomatosis by 10 years; while stabilisation virtually halted during the period 1964-1978. Periods of rapid stabilisation were coincident with higher values of Talbot's Mobility index (M) > 0.3. Successional development was apparent in both dry and wet habitats. Fixed dune grassland started to replace earlier successional communities at around 40 years, and could persist to 145 years. Linear succession in dune slacks was less apparent, but a separation between communities typically regarded as 'younger' and 'older' occurred at around 40 years. Species richness in dry dune habitats increased with age to a maximum on soils around 60 years old, then declined again. Species richness was unrelated to age or soil development in wet dune slacks. The influence of climate suggests that conservation managers can only operate within the constraints imposed by natural climatic conditions. Vegetation growth and soil development are closely linked and maintaining some open areas is key to preventing soil development and over-stabilisation. © 2009 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.


Jones M.L.M.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Norman K.,BHP Billiton | Rhind P.M.,Countryside Council for Wales
Journal of Coastal Conservation | Year: 2010

Over-stabilisation and eutrophication affect many dune systems in north-west Europe. This leads to lower diversity of typical dune species and an accumulation of soil nutrients. Existing management techniques to remove excess nutrients include mowing, with removal of cuttings, and turf stripping. A new restoration technique called topsoil inversion or deep ploughing may also be able to counter some of the negative effects of eutrophication. It simulates the burial of established soils with fresh mineral sand, by inverting the soil profile. A trial was carried out on two small blocks of eutrophic dune grassland in North Wales, UK. Nutrient-rich surface soils were buried beneath mineral sub-sand using a double-bladed plough, designed to plough to depths of up to 100 cm. Results show that the organic soil horizons were buried to a depth of 80 cm, and covered with 40-50 cm of mineral sand. The pH and organic matter of the surface layers became comparable to those of mobile dunes. Fifteen months after ploughing, bare sand cover was still 70-90%, but significant sand loss through wind erosion resulted in a thinning of the mineral sand over-burden, leaving the buried organic layer closer to the surface. Natural vegetation colonisation was slow, with the first surviving plants observed after 8 months. The majority of species present at 15 months were present before ploughing and had regenerated from rhizomes or root fragments. The effect of excluding disturbance caused by rabbits, people and dogs was assessed within fenced areas. After 11 months, vegetation cover was greater in the fenced areas than in plots exposed to disturbance, therefore disturbance replaced physical conditions as the dominant influence on plant growth and establishment. These early results suggest the trial has been partially successful, but that topsoil inversion could be combined with other methods such as turf stripping or by stabilisation of the ploughed surface by planting with pioneer species, depending on the ultimate restoration goal. © 2009 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

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