Economic determinants of biodiversity change over a 400-year period in the Scottish uplands
Article first published online: 10 OCT 2008
© 2008 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2008 British Ecological Society
Journal of Applied Ecology
Volume 45, Issue 6, pages 1557–1565, December 2008
How to Cite
Hanley, N., Davies, A., Angelopoulos, K., Hamilton, A., Ross, A., Tinch, D. and Watson, F. (2008), Economic determinants of biodiversity change over a 400-year period in the Scottish uplands. Journal of Applied Ecology, 45: 1557–1565. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2008.01570.x
- Issue published online: 21 OCT 2008
- Article first published online: 10 OCT 2008
- Received 12 February 2008; accepted 5 September 2008; Handling Editor: David Kleijn
- economic factors;
- grazing pressures;
- historical studies;
- interdisciplinary studies;
- panel data models;
- pollen analysis;
- palynological richness
- 1Economic forces are recognized as an important driving factor behind current biodiversity losses. This study investigates whether such factors have been important in determining one measure of biodiversity change over the ‘long run’– in our case, 400 years – for upland sites in Scotland.
- 2A combination of palaeoecological, historical and economic methods is used to construct and then analyse a database of factors contributing to changes in plant diversity over time for 11 upland sites.
- 3Using an instrumental variables panel model, we find livestock prices, our proxy for grazing pressure, to be a statistically significant determinant of diversity change, with higher grazing pressures resulting in lower diversity values on average, although site abandonment is also found to result in a fall in plant diversity. Technological change, such as the introduction of new animal breeds, was not found to be a statistically significant determinant.
- 4Using later period data (post 1860) on livestock numbers at the parish (local) level, we were able to confirm the main result noted above (3) in terms of the effects of higher grazing pressures on plant diversity.
- 5Synthesis and applications. This study shows how data from very different disciplines can be combined to address questions relevant to contemporary conservation and understanding. This novel, interdisciplinary approach provides new insights into the role of economic factors as a driver of biodiversity loss in the uplands. Biodiversity levels have varied considerably over 400 years, partly as a function of land management, suggesting that establishing baselines or ‘natural’ target levels for biodiversity is likely to be problematic. Changes in livestock grazing pressures brought about by changes in prices had statistically significant effects on estimated plant diversity, as did land abandonment. This suggests that long-term management of upland areas for the conservation of diversity should focus on grazing pressures as a key policy attribute. Another policy implication is that drastic cuts in grazing pressures – such as might occur under current reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy – can have adverse biodiversity consequences.