2021 update: ECBN is no longer an active network, though the English component still exists as Natural England's Long-Term Monitoring Network. Read more below.

Climate change and air pollution are likely to cause substantial changes in ecosystems.  It is important that these changes are monitored, so that policy and management techniques can be developed to minimise adverse impacts on biodiversity on the basis of reliable scientific evidence.  It is for this reason that a network of sites to address this issue was initiated in a project led by the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (now UKCEH).  The aim was to establish a network of sites - the Environmental Change Biodiversity Network (ECBN) - closely linked to the existing Environmental Change Network and substantially increasing its spatial coverage across the UK.

The ECBN operated for several years, with the main component being a set of sites in protected areas operated by Natural England. These sites form NE's Long-Term Monitoring Network (LTMN). The ECBN is no longer active, though monitoring continues at LTMN sites and LTMN and ECN continue to collaborate.

Central to the design of the ECBN was the ability to test whether climate change, air pollution or another factor, such as changing management patterns, is the primary cause of an ecological change. ECBN was designed so that climate and aspects of air pollution could be monitored together with aspects of biodiversity, such as vegetation composition and populations of selected animal groups (as is done at ECN sites). The plan was to select sites that had stable management and high conservation value. National Nature Reserves were to form the core of the network. Measurement methods for ECBN were based on existing ECN protocols, thus maintaining a strong link with the existing ECN network.

Who was involved in the ECBN scoping project?

The scoping project was funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural AffairsNatural England and the Natural Resources Wales.  The project was led by the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.  Statistical input was provided by Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland and staff from the following UK conservation agencies, universities and research organisations also contributed to the project: British Trust for OrnithologyEnvironment AgencyForest ResearchRothamsted Research at North WykeJoint Nature Conservation CommitteeThe James Hutton InstituteRothamsted ResearchScottish Environment Protection AgencyScottish GovermmentScottish Natural HeritageUniversity of LiverpoolUniversity of OxfordUniversity of York.  Several of the key organisations, such as CEH, Defra and the statutory conservation agencies are now actively following up the project with further activities in a bid to move towards establishing a network.

The network's scoping report is: Morecroft, M.D., Sier, A.R.J., Elston, D.A., Nevison, I.M., Hall, J.R., Rennie, S.C., Parr, T.W. and Crick, H.Q.P. (2006). Targeted Monitoring of Air Pollution and Climate Change Impacts on Biodiversity. Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. 78pp. | Download report...

How can I find out more?

Further details about the ECBN may be obtained from Andrew Sier, ECN CCU. To enquire about Natural England's LTMN please contact the Integrated Monitoring team.

An article about the ECBN network concept appeared in issue 17 of ECN News (2006).