ECN enables science that matters

Our data supports research that informs policymaking and the management of natural resources.

ECN’s data and expertise are relevant to a range of environmental policy issues including climate changepollution and biodiversity loss. Long-term monitoring can inform policies and check how well they work.

As the period of time over which ECN data have been collected lengthens, so their value as evidence for policy increases. This was recognised in a Defra survey: "There are, however, data sets that have great potential strategically, for example the Environmental Change Network, but that need longer runs to deliver their full potential." [1]

ECN data provide an ecological baseline against which future changes can be judged

The value of ECN for informing policies has, of course, already been recognised. For example, a report for the Scottish Government stated “Research as part of the ECN and other upland catchments has already played an important role in shaping and monitoring the effectiveness of national and international policy on emission abatement strategies, for example in relation to atmospheric sulphur and nitrogen emission, deposition and impact assessments for the Gothenburg Protocol and its current revision.” [2]. ECN data have also helped in the interpretation of land use change data collected by the Countryside Survey.

Pollution from a power station

Why our research matters

For selected papers using ECN data and sites, we explain the significance of the research

Impacts of key pressures on ecosystems

ECN data are used to aid understanding of the impacts of key pressures such as climate change and air pollution, on ecosystems and the services they deliver.

ECN data provide an ecological baseline against which future changes in these major drivers can be judged and policy/management responses developed. For example, ECN vegetation data were used in the BICCO-Net project to help determine species most sensitive to climate change.

Our meteorological data have been compared with earlier data to detect local changes in rainfall and other climatic variables, whilst trends in ECN data for butterflies and beetles [3,4] have shown possible influences of a changing climate.

Data from ECN terrestrial and freshwater sites clearly show the effectiveness of policies to reduce acidifying pollution ('acid rain').

In 2013, the Living With Environmental Change Partnership (LWEC) published the first in a series of Report Cards providing up-to-date and agreed evidence to help people understand and manage climate change impactsTerrestrial Biodiversity Climate Change Impacts: Report Card 2012-13 drew upon a wide range of evidence sources, including published analyses of ECN data, and from findings of Defra’s BICCO-Net project (led by the British Trust for Ornithology) to which ECN also contributed. The Report Card is a 'click-through' expert report which aims to advise government policy makers, land managers, environmental consultants and researchers who need to know what the current evidence indicates and make decisions relating to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

In 2008 we produced a publication specifically aimed at policymakers: Climate change impacts: Evidence from ECN sites that highlighted some of the findings from ECN monitoring and research which provided evidence of the sensitivity of natural ecosystems in the UK to variability and change in climate.

  1. Survey of External Capabilities to meet Defra’s Strategic Requirements, 2009
  2. Strategic Research for the Scottish Government: Programme 3 - Environment - Land Use and Rural Stewardship, 2008
  3. Morecroft, et al. (2009). The UK Environmental Change Network: Emerging trends in the composition of plant and animal communities and the physical environment. Biological Conservation, 142/12: 2814 – 2832
  4. Brooks, et al. (2012). Large carabid beetle declines in a United Kingdom monitoring network increases evidence for a widespread loss in insect biodiversity. Journal of Applied Ecology, 49 (5), 1009-1019