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Keywords:

  • ECN;
  • LTER;
  • ecological assessment;
  • biodiversity

Abstract

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA 2003) framework was applied to provide a holistic assessment and comparison of ecosystem services delivery from 11 environmental change network (ECN) sites, following a workshop of ECN site managers. A list of common variables was agreed to represent the high level categories defined by the MA. The resultant 73 variables, either direct ecosystem services or proxies, were divided into two subsets (readily accessible biogeographical data from all sites and additional site specific data). Similarity analysis of the biogeographical data indicated four site clusters: land with at least 50% forest cover, productive livestock farmland, uplands and a lowland grass/arable group. The first three clusters were also evident for both the additional data and for the larger combined dataset. The lowland grass/arable sites were a ‘mixed use’ cluster that was not apparent in the analysis of the additional or combined datasets indicating a mismatch between particular ecosystem services and specific landscapes/habitats. Procrustes analysis of the biogeographical data and the combined dataset suggested that the primary differences between datasets were due to variables associated with local management decisions which prevented harvesting of provisioning services or denied public access to the site. Drawing on comparable data from some of the most intensively researched and monitored ecosystems in the UK, this study demonstrates the challenges and limitations involved in attempting holistic assessments of ecosystem services at the site and inter-site level and highlights the importance of both local expert knowledge and consistent scientific measurement in contributing to the process. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.