Our special issue: a summary

To mark the 20th anniversary of detailed site-based monitoring at ECN sites, we undertook a series of activities, including a special issue. Here we distill the key messages from the 15 published papers.


The UK Environmental Change Network (ECN) was established in 1992 in response to calls for more long-term, quantitative information about the state of the environment and how and why it was changing. Since then, the network’s terrestrial component has comprised a set of sites ranging from lowland farms and woodlands to upland moors and mountains. In 1994, ECN also began collating data from a network of lakesrivers and streams, though this aspect of our work is currently on hold due to funding constraints.

To mark the 20th anniversary of detailed site-based monitoring, we undertook a series of activities, including a symposium in Lancaster in May 2014, the release of 20-year ECN datasets, available from the UKCEH Environmental Information Platform, a UKCEH blog, ‘Behind the scenes at the UK's Environmental Change Network’ and an article in NERC’s Planet Earth magazine: ‘Taking the environment’s pulse' (Summer 2014 issue).

We also invited symposium speakers, ECN site managers and other scientists involved in research at specific ECN sites, or analysing ECN data more generally, to submit manuscripts to a special issue of the journal Ecological Indicators, guest edited by Andrew Sier and Don Monteith (Sier, A and Monteith, D. (eds). 2016. Assessing ecosystem resilience through Long Term Ecosystem Research: observations from the first twenty years of the UK Environmental Change Network. Ecological Indicators 68, 1-156.)

The resulting 15 peer reviewed papers in the special issue cover a wide range of topics and demonstrate the broad range of science questions that ECN data are helping to address. These include network-wide summaries of environmental and biological trends over the first two decades of monitoring, more site-specific assessment of the ecological impacts of local pressures resulting from changes in management, biological and ecosystem service indicator development, and the testing of new monitoring technologies.

These 83 key points from the papers provide a useful summary. Links to the papers themselves (on Elsevier's website) are also provided.

Select a paper:

  • Sier, A. and Monteith, D. The UK Environmental Change Network after twenty years of integrated ecosystem assessment: Key findings and future perspectives
  • Rennie, S. Providing information on environmental change: Data management, discovery and access in the UK Environmental Change Network Data Centre
  • Monteith, D., et al. Trends and variability in weather and atmospheric deposition at UK Environmental Change Network sites (1993-2012)
  • Sawicka, K., et al. Fine-scale temporal characterization of trends in soil water dissolved organic carbon and potential drivers
  • Rose, R., et al. Evidence for increases in vegetation species richness across the UK Environmental Change Network sites linked to changes in air pollution and weather patterns
  • Morecroft, MD., et al. Interannual variability, stability and resilience in UK plant communities
  • Pallett, DW., Pescott, OL. and Schafer, SM. Changes in plant species richness and productivity in response to decreased nitrogen inputs in grassland in southern England
  • Eyre, MD., McMillan, SD. and Critchley, CNR. Ground beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae) as indicators of change and pattern in the agroecosystem: Longer surveys improve understanding
  • Milligan, G., Rose, RJ. and Marrs, RH. Winners and losers in a long-term study of vegetation change at Moor House NNR: Effects of sheep-grazing and its removal on British upland vegetation
  • Moody, CS., Worrall, F. and Burt, TP. Identifying DOC gains and losses during a 20-year record in the Trout Beck catchment, Moor House, UK
  • Dick, J., et al. Analysis of temporal change in delivery of ecosystem services over 20 years at long term monitoring sites of the UK Environmental Change Network
  • Martay, B., et al. An indicator highlights seasonal variation in the response of Lepidoptera communities to warming
  • Pozsgai, G., et al. Interspecific networks in ground beetle (Coleoptera: Carabidae) assemblages
  • Elliott, JA., McElarney, YR. and Allen, M. The past and future of phytoplankton in the UK's largest lake, Lough Neagh
  • Baxendale, CL., et al. Can digital image classification be used as a standardised method for surveying peatland vegetation cover?

View the papers