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Using historical woodland creation to construct a long-term, large-scale natural experiment: the WrEN project.

Watts K, Fuentes-Montemayor E, Macgregor NA, Peredo-Alvarez V, Ferryman M, Bellamy C, Brown N, Park KJ - Ecol Evol (2016)

Bottom Line: Although this shift has been widely embraced by conservation communities worldwide, the empirical evidence is limited and equivocal, and may be limiting effective conservation.Our results confirm that this landscape satisfies the principles we have identified and provides an ideal study system for a long-term, large-scale natural experiment to explore how woodland biodiversity is affected by different site and landscape attributes.The results from WrEN will help develop detailed recommendations to guide landscape-scale conservation, including the design of ecological networks.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Forest ResearchAlice Holt LodgeFarnhamSurreyGU10 4LHUK; Biological and Environmental SciencesSchool of Natural SciencesUniversity of StirlingStirlingFK9 4LAUK.

ABSTRACT
Natural experiments have been proposed as a way of complementing manipulative experiments to improve ecological understanding and guide management. There is a pressing need for evidence from such studies to inform a shift to landscape-scale conservation, including the design of ecological networks. Although this shift has been widely embraced by conservation communities worldwide, the empirical evidence is limited and equivocal, and may be limiting effective conservation. We present principles for well-designed natural experiments to inform landscape-scale conservation and outline how they are being applied in the WrEN project, which is studying the effects of 160 years of woodland creation on biodiversity in UK landscapes. We describe the study areas and outline the systematic process used to select suitable historical woodland creation sites based on key site- and landscape-scale variables - including size, age, and proximity to other woodland. We present the results of an analysis to explore variation in these variables across sites to test their suitability as a basis for a natural experiment. Our results confirm that this landscape satisfies the principles we have identified and provides an ideal study system for a long-term, large-scale natural experiment to explore how woodland biodiversity is affected by different site and landscape attributes. The WrEN sites are now being surveyed for a wide selection of species that are likely to respond differently to site- and landscape-scale attributes and at different spatial and temporal scales. The results from WrEN will help develop detailed recommendations to guide landscape-scale conservation, including the design of ecological networks. We also believe that the approach presented demonstrates the wider utility of well-designed natural experiments to improve our understanding of ecological systems and inform policy and practice.

No MeSH data available.


Distribution (rank order) of the four site‐scale variables: (i) patch area; (iia) patch characteristics – tree species richness; (iib) patch characteristics – tree density; and (iii) patch age in years since creation for the 106 WrEN woodland sites in Scotland (n = 67) and England (n = 39).
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ece32066-fig-0003: Distribution (rank order) of the four site‐scale variables: (i) patch area; (iia) patch characteristics – tree species richness; (iib) patch characteristics – tree density; and (iii) patch age in years since creation for the 106 WrEN woodland sites in Scotland (n = 67) and England (n = 39).

Mentions: Table 2 presents further details of the site‐ and landscape‐level variables for the study sites, while Figures 3 and 4 show the distribution of the site and landscape variables, respectively. Figure 3 shows the general prevalence for the creation of small woodlands (mean size of 3.3 ha, SE = 0.5 – Table 2) and the tendency for older (mean 86 years, SE = 5.6), smaller (mean 1.5 ha, SE = 0.1) woodlands to occur in Scotland, in contrast to larger (mean 6.4 ha, SE = 1.1), younger (mean 42 years, SE = 5.8) woodlands in England. Figure 4 clearly shows the difference in the surrounding matrix for sites in Scotland and England, with England having a lower proportion of seminatural land cover within the surrounding landscape (mean 10%, SE = 0.01) and a far higher proportion of agriculture (mean 81%, SE = 0.02).


Using historical woodland creation to construct a long-term, large-scale natural experiment: the WrEN project.

Watts K, Fuentes-Montemayor E, Macgregor NA, Peredo-Alvarez V, Ferryman M, Bellamy C, Brown N, Park KJ - Ecol Evol (2016)

Distribution (rank order) of the four site‐scale variables: (i) patch area; (iia) patch characteristics – tree species richness; (iib) patch characteristics – tree density; and (iii) patch age in years since creation for the 106 WrEN woodland sites in Scotland (n = 67) and England (n = 39).
© Copyright Policy - creativeCommonsBy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4863024&req=5

ece32066-fig-0003: Distribution (rank order) of the four site‐scale variables: (i) patch area; (iia) patch characteristics – tree species richness; (iib) patch characteristics – tree density; and (iii) patch age in years since creation for the 106 WrEN woodland sites in Scotland (n = 67) and England (n = 39).
Mentions: Table 2 presents further details of the site‐ and landscape‐level variables for the study sites, while Figures 3 and 4 show the distribution of the site and landscape variables, respectively. Figure 3 shows the general prevalence for the creation of small woodlands (mean size of 3.3 ha, SE = 0.5 – Table 2) and the tendency for older (mean 86 years, SE = 5.6), smaller (mean 1.5 ha, SE = 0.1) woodlands to occur in Scotland, in contrast to larger (mean 6.4 ha, SE = 1.1), younger (mean 42 years, SE = 5.8) woodlands in England. Figure 4 clearly shows the difference in the surrounding matrix for sites in Scotland and England, with England having a lower proportion of seminatural land cover within the surrounding landscape (mean 10%, SE = 0.01) and a far higher proportion of agriculture (mean 81%, SE = 0.02).

Bottom Line: Although this shift has been widely embraced by conservation communities worldwide, the empirical evidence is limited and equivocal, and may be limiting effective conservation.Our results confirm that this landscape satisfies the principles we have identified and provides an ideal study system for a long-term, large-scale natural experiment to explore how woodland biodiversity is affected by different site and landscape attributes.The results from WrEN will help develop detailed recommendations to guide landscape-scale conservation, including the design of ecological networks.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Forest ResearchAlice Holt LodgeFarnhamSurreyGU10 4LHUK; Biological and Environmental SciencesSchool of Natural SciencesUniversity of StirlingStirlingFK9 4LAUK.

ABSTRACT
Natural experiments have been proposed as a way of complementing manipulative experiments to improve ecological understanding and guide management. There is a pressing need for evidence from such studies to inform a shift to landscape-scale conservation, including the design of ecological networks. Although this shift has been widely embraced by conservation communities worldwide, the empirical evidence is limited and equivocal, and may be limiting effective conservation. We present principles for well-designed natural experiments to inform landscape-scale conservation and outline how they are being applied in the WrEN project, which is studying the effects of 160 years of woodland creation on biodiversity in UK landscapes. We describe the study areas and outline the systematic process used to select suitable historical woodland creation sites based on key site- and landscape-scale variables - including size, age, and proximity to other woodland. We present the results of an analysis to explore variation in these variables across sites to test their suitability as a basis for a natural experiment. Our results confirm that this landscape satisfies the principles we have identified and provides an ideal study system for a long-term, large-scale natural experiment to explore how woodland biodiversity is affected by different site and landscape attributes. The WrEN sites are now being surveyed for a wide selection of species that are likely to respond differently to site- and landscape-scale attributes and at different spatial and temporal scales. The results from WrEN will help develop detailed recommendations to guide landscape-scale conservation, including the design of ecological networks. We also believe that the approach presented demonstrates the wider utility of well-designed natural experiments to improve our understanding of ecological systems and inform policy and practice.

No MeSH data available.