BIOCHANGE: Biodiversity and Environmental Change an Integrated Study Encompassing a Range of Scales, Taxa and Habitats.

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Resource or Project Abstract

Core research within the cluster directly addressed the protection and management of ecological resources in the context of pressures that might lead to environmental change by focusing on the four main drivers of biodiversity loss: habitat fragmentation and loss, impacts on non‐native species, climate change, pollution and resource utilisation. BioChange has provided an Irish framework to address the most significant biodiversity policy in Europe ? halting the decline of biodiversity by 2010. The aims of the project included developing fundamental biodiversity research and capacity building in taxonomic skills, as well as development of biodiversity indicators and biomonitoring tools. Two cross‐cutting research projects targeted the production of inventories and output of taxonomic data, and the understanding of socio‐economic processes, including public participation that shape biodiversity policies. A themetic project within BioChange brought together groups of researchers from normally disparate areas to develop a coherent research framework; this project examined how BioChange could develop strategically beyond the current project funding. The BioChange project has successfully trained 7 PhD students, 3 MSc students, 6 Postdoctoral researchers and 1 research assistant. Ten peer‐reviewed scientific papers have been published at the time of writing, with many more in review, preparation or the early stages of planning. Summary conclusions drawn for the individual work packages are provided in the individual chapters. Here we provide an overview of the major research findings in an integrated way, references to work packages [WP] or cross‐cutting projects [CC] are given. *Temporal Changes in Biodiversity to Perturbation* Rapid changes were found in response to removal of grazing [WP 1.3] and simulated climate change [WP 2.2], these changes occurred far more rapidly than anticipated. On the other hand, the recovery of an Ascophyllum dominated community following harvesting was slow [WP4]. This suggests that responses of communities and species to changes in land management, or to climate change, may in some cases be very rapid, while recovery from perturbation may be very slow. *Effects of Differing Spatial Scales* Many ecological functions operate over varying scales, and BioChange results often indicated scale‐dependence. Local and often small sites may be of biological interest: they may harbour locally adapted populations, as in the marine alga Ascophyllum nodosum [WP4], or may contain surprisingly high levels of species diversity, as in the study of wetland invertebrates [WP 1.1]. While there is often no conservation designation for these small sites, particularly as they have been considered less important than larger protected areas, they may be of great importance in providing heterogeneity of habitats at the landscape scale, which was found to be important for pollinator assemblages [WP 1.1]. Small sites may therefore have both intrinsic local value and broader landscape values, and these differing scale effects must be considered in regional planning. *Invasive Species Impacts on Ecosystems* Two BioChange projects confirmed the predicted (but rarely measured) negative impact of nonnative invasive species on biodiversity. Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) were found to alter nutrient cycling and reduce rotifer diversity and biomass and reduce populations of predatory Cladocera and larval Chaoboridae, though zebra mussel infestation appeared to have little impact on fish populations [WP 2.1]. Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) invasion resulted in reduced plant species richness compared to uninvaded sites and those invaded by the native Braken (Pteridium aquilinum) [WP 2.2]. Another project showed how widely used metrics of lake quality lost predictive power in sites infested with Zebra Mussels [WP 3]. For vascular plants, both species‐specific traits and more general ecological traits best predicted invasions [WP 2.3]. While improved predictions and better knowledge of the ecological and economic impacts of invasions are required, for a number of species some immediate control action urgently needs to be taken *Biodiversity Metrics and Indicators* A number of BioChange results challenged generally held views on biodiversity indicators and metrics for measuring pressures on biodiversity. Vascular plant diversity, often used to assess wetland habitats suitable for conservation, did not reflect invertebrate diversity in these wetlands, neither did the designation of a site as being of conservation importance or the degree of anthropogenic impact [WP 1.1]. Some widely used metrics were found to be ineffective for measuring pollution pressures in intertidal marine sites, though investigations suggested that others that might prove appropriate. Indicator groups were determined but appeared to be habitat specific, and in some cases experimental manipulation demonstrated complex responses to multiple stressors [WP 3]. Care should be used in applying metrics and indicators; our work suggests greater experimental verification is required, and more research is required to further develop predictive metrics. *Biodiversity Information Provision* While appropriate metrics need to be used and employed to inform policy and planning, there are numerous other ways in which biodiversity information and data can usefully be provided to a variety of stakeholders. BioChange has produced a database of invasive plant species in Ireland [WP 2.3], taxonomic information online and an interactive key to the vascular plants of Co. Clare and south Connemara [CC 2]. While these outputs should already have considerable benefits to stakeholders who need this information, upscaling of these outputs taxonomically to provide coverage of more taxonomic groups, and geographically to provide country or island‐wide coverage is a priority. BioChange has provided a framework to enable this. *Long‐term and Future Research Needs* Many of the BioChange activities set up or otherwise defined sites that would profit from on‐going monitoring and experimentation. It is also abundantly clear that Ireland needs to designate some natural/semi‐natural locations for both on‐going monitoring and experimental manipulation: this is the only way in which we are going to obtain reliable information to predict future biodiversity responses to environmental and other land‐use change. Many of the necessarily short‐term responses detected during BioChange need to be followed up over a longer time‐frame. In addition, ongoing funding needs to be secured to enable the continued development and provision of accessible biodiversity information and data to a variety of stakeholders [WP 1.3, 2.1, 2.2, 3, CC2]. *Public and Political Perception* Addressing the biodiversity crisis is the greatest challenge facing human society. Without functioning ecosystems, there will be no economies, no societies ‐ and no human life. Yet the poor perceptions of biodiversity, and the effects of biodiversity loss, are major stumbling blocks to achieving sustainability through an enlightened approach to the goods and services provided by biodiversity. For example, despite the active public awareness programme, Zebra Mussels are still being deliberately introduced to uninfected lakes [WP 2.1]. Even some people working within the biodiversity sector have a difficulty in articulating a clear view of what biodiversity actually is. Despite this, there is a widespread general knowledge and interest in ?nature? and local environments, and this could form the basis of both more enlightened policy development with inputs from private and civil society as well as scientists and the public sector [CC 1]. Greater efforts are needed to raise public and political awareness of the values of biodiversity, and we recommend close co‐operation NOW between economists, biological, environmental and social scientists to translate scientific evidence into policy and legislation to sustain human livelihoods into the future

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Contact Information for This Resource

Dr. Louise Scally
BEC Consultants Ltd.,
Environmental Research Scientist
BEC Consultants Ltd.,, Dublin 2 , 26 Fitzwilliam Street Upper, Dublin 2 Dublin, Ireland
Telephone: + 353 1 6619713

Dr Steve Waldren
Trinity College Dublin
Snr Lecturer/ Curator of Botanic Gardens
Department of Botany, School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College, Dublin 2 , Ireland
Telephone: +353 1 896 1147

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Attachment Name and Download Link
Att: 1    ERTDI_Scally_Biochange_AppendicesOnly.pdf  (0.22 Mb)
Att: 2    ERTDI_Scally_Biochange_TPR_NoAppendices.pdf  (23.0 Mb)
Att: 3    ERTDI_Scally_Biochange_trp.pdf  (24.32 Mb)
Offline Print Quality Version    STRIVE_68_Waldren_Biochange_prn.pdf  (2.68 Mb)
Project Report Optimised For Online Viewing    STRIVE_68_waldren_Biochange_web.pdf  (1.25 Mb)

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Author(s)Scally, L. Waldren, S.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationBIOCHANGE: Biodiversity and Environmental Change an Integrated Study Encompassing a Range of Scales, Taxa and Habitats.
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL
Unique Identifier7887c1d3-2afe-11e1-ad3d-005056ae0019
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2017-03-26

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Scally, L. Waldren, S.   "BIOCHANGE: Biodiversity and Environmental Change an Integrated Study Encompassing a Range of Scales, Taxa and Habitats. ". Associated datasets and digitial information objects connected to this resource are available at: Secure Archive For Environmental Research Data (SAFER) managed by Environmental Protection Agency Ireland (Last Accessed: 2017-03-26)


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SAFER-Data Display URL
Resource KeywordsBIOCHANGE biodiversity change habitats
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2005-CD-B2-M1
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeBiodiversity
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Limitations on the use of this ResourceAny attached datasets, data files, or information objects can be downloaded for further use in scientific applications under the condition that the source is properly quoted and cited in published papers, journals, websites, presentations, books, etc. Before downloading, users must agree to the "Conditions of Download and Access" from SAFER-Data. These appear before download. Users of the data should also communicate with the original authors/owners of this resource if they are uncertain about any aspect of the data or information provided before further usage
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 5
Project Start Date Saturday 1st January 2005 (01-01-2005)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Saturday 1st January 2005 (01-01-2005)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Wednesday 1st December 2010 (01-12-2010)
Published on SAFERTuesday 20th December 2011 (20-12-2011)
Date of Last EditThursday 4th July 2013 at 13:30:00 (04-07-2013)
Datasets or Files Updated On Thursday 4th July 2013 at 12:44:25 (04-07-2013)

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Geographical and Spatial Information Related To This Resource

Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
BIOCHANGE is a major research project - and has a large number of sampling areas etc in Ireland. Please refer to the Technical Report Attached for full details. We provide a sample of the geographical extent here by summarising the geographical extent of some of the work-packages. For "2.3. Habitat mosaics and biodiversity at the landscape scale" Fourteen farms were chosen in Clare approximately 10 km apart in order that landscape composition up to 5 km could be calculated around each site independently (for details see Cunningham, 2009). Sampling was conducted in three Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) grazed pastures at each farm. For "2.4. Effects of grazing cessation on plant and mollusc diversity in woodland, scrub and grassland habitats, and the effects of habitat fragmentation on rare/scarce woodland species". For the grazing exclusion study 12 sites were chosen across north Clare and south Galway, comprising four each of grasslands, scrub and woodlands. All sites are calcareous and well‐drained. All the scrub and woodland sites are hazel‐dominated For "3.2. Analysis of effects of zebra mussels on natural community composition in Clare lakes" The research was focused on a series of small lakes, selected following a more extensive initial zebra mussel survey in Co Clare and south Co Galway during November 2006 in which 34 lakes were investigated. Initial surveys involved plankton net sampling for veliger larvae, shoreline sampling and sub‐littoral dredging for adult mussels. The selected series of 18 lakes were later sampled by alternative methods including SCUBA diver collection of samples, hydroacoustic surveys and use of a variety of standard limnological sampling equipment and sensors. The selected 18 lakes comprised 10 with and 8 without zebra mussels For "4.1 Pollution as a Driver of Biodiversity Change ‐ Impacts, Indicators and Long‐term Monitoring " Two networks of rocky shore sites with differing degrees of nutrient pollution were established in the Galway‐Clare region. The first (Network 1) comprises 11 sites in three clusters (Connemara, Galway Bay, Shannon‐Tralee), each with one to two polluted and two comparatively unpolluted (?control?) sites (Fig. 4.1). The second (Network 2) comprises six sites in Galway Bay. Sites were selected on the basis of limited existing data, but supplementary data on physico‐chemical characteristics and contamination by nutrients were also collected. A network comparable to and closely linked with Network 1 was also established for intertidal sedimentary shores (Network 3). A network of 35 freshwater lakes was also established with varying degrees of nutrient contamination and of differing states of invasion by the zebra mussel Dreissena polymorpha (Network 4).

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Supplementary Information About This Resource

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Lineage information about this project or dataset
The EPA has funded two large‐scale projects ? AgBiota (Purvis et al., 2009 ? see also and Bioforest (Smith et al., 2005, 2006; Iremonger et al., 2006 ? see also ? and funded some biodiversity research through its post‐doctoral fellowship and post‐graduate studentship schemes. National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) have contracted out research on particular aspects of biodiversity research, though it is not a primarily researchfunding agency. Relatively small grants have been available from the Heritage Council through its Biodiversity Fund. Due to competition with other areas of scientific research, funding for biodiversityrelated areas has traditionally been difficult or impossible to obtain from organizations such as Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Research Council for Science Engineering and Technology, and Science Foundation Ireland. The BioChange project team was developed directly out of contacts and collaborations made through the National Platform for Biodiversity Research; several of the BioChange PIs were active members of the platform. In deciding how to address the EPA call, a decision was made to focus the research around the major drivers of recent biodiversity loss identified by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) mentioned above. In taking this approach, we aimed to provide measures to support the CBD aims of reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, and the more ambitious European target of halting the loss of biodiversity in Europe by 2010 (Presidency conclusions ? Göteburg summit, 2001).
Supplementary Information
The BioChange project has successfully fulfilled its aim of building an integrative cluster of research activity, addressing novel and important issues surrounding Irish biodiversity, focusing on the area of County Clare and Galway Bay (including the Aran Islands). It has also succeded in building a foundation of collaborative biodiversity research capacity in Ireland, by forming a network of researchers that we hope will last well beyond the duration of this project. This project developed an interactive, publicly accessible, visually exciting, web‐based inventory and keys to the flowering plants and marine macroalgae of the Burren and the Aran Islands using the Linnaeus II web‐enabled programme ( which can ultimately be expanded to cover the entire Irish flora and fauna. Additionally, all macrophytes reported from the Burren and the Aran Islands were added to the Irish Species Register ( together with publicly available photographs, and researchers involved in the project were encouraged to add further information and pictures via browsers on their desktops. A MySQL database for a web‐based database was constructed. This contained approximately 60 tables and was developed so it could be expanded to create additional tables if required in the future. The database was populated with approximately 12,000 species of seaweeds, flowering plants, birds, and marine vertebrates and invertebrates together with some sources, references, distributional data and other information. Incomplete entries include freshwater algae and terrestrial fungi and lichens. A key to the Irish seaweed was created and linked to available images
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