70 research outputs found

    The challenge of valuing ecosystem services that have no material benefits

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    Since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, ecosystem service science has made much progress in framing core concepts and approaches, but there is still debate around the notion of cultural services, and a growing consensus that ecosystem use and ecosystem service use should be clearly differentiated. Part of the debate resides in the fact that the most significant sources of conflict around natural resource management arise from the multiple managements (uses) of ecosystems, rather than from the multiple uses of ecosystem services. If the ecosystem approach or the ecosystem service paradigm are to be implemented at national levels, there is an urgent need to disentangle what are often semantic issues, revise the notion of cultural services, and more broadly, practically define the less tangible ecosystem services on which we depend. This is a critical step to identifying suitable ways to manage trade-offs and promote adaptive management. Here we briefly review the problems associated with defining and quantifying cultural ecosystem services and suggest there could be merit in discarding this term for the simpler non-material ecosystem services. We also discuss the challenges in valuing the invaluable, and suggest that if we are to keep ecosystem service definition focused on the beneficiary, we need to further classify these challenging services, for example by differentiating services to individuals from services to communities. Also, we suggest that focussing on ecosystem service change rather than simply service delivery, and identifying common boundaries relevant for both people and ecosystems, would help meet some of these challenges

    Insight into long-term ecological dynamics from the Lynn Brianne Observatory

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    Understanding the erosion of freshwater biodiversity has become a global imperative, but consistent series of long-term data from which to appraise changes are rare. In central Wales (UK), the Lynn Brianne Stream Observatory has provided unique insight into the complexity of biodiversity dynamics over four decades, revealing how apparent stasis in alpha- and beta-diversity might mask non-random functional changes in macroinvertebrate assemblages. Assessments of synchrony and stability at population and community levels reveal the effect of climatic variations in which warmer, wetter phases of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) have been associated with large interannual changes in community composition. Moreover, these positive NAO periods have brought greater synchrony in species abundances within streams (community synchrony) and across streams (spatial population synchrony). Increasing synchrony can destabilise ecosystems with consequences for the persistence of populations. Preliminary analyses at Lynn Brianne suggest that species with greater spatial synchrony tend to decline in abundance over time. For instance, the abundance of cold-adapted species has declined by 40% since the 1980s reflecting the general increase in temperatures. Moreover, populations of these species displayed significantly higher spatial synchrony than warm-adapted species, which increased by 30% over the same time period. We suggest that both directional climate warming and the NAO contribute to the long-term reorganisation of benthic communities in temperate headwater

    Accounting for Dilution of SARS-CoV-2 in Wastewater Samples Using Physico-Chemical Markers

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    Most sewer networks collect domestic wastewater and a variable proportion of extraneous water, such as rainwater, through surface runoff and industrial discharges. Accounting for wastewater dilution is essential to properly quantify wastewater particle loads, whether these are molecular fragments of SARS-CoV-2, or other substances of interest such as illicit drugs or microplastics. This paper presents a novel method for obtaining real-time estimates of wastewater dilution and total daily volume through wastewater treatment works, namely when flow data is not available or unreliable. The approach considers the levels of several physico-chemical markers (ammonia, electrical conductivity, and orthophosphate) in the wastewater against their dry-weather levels. Using high-resolution data from the national Wastewater Surveillance Programme of Wales, we illustrate how the method is robust to spikes in markers and can recover peaks in wastewater flow measurements that may have been capped by hydraulic relief valves. We show the method proves effective in normalising SARS-CoV-2 viral loads in wastewater samples and discuss other applications for this method, looking at wastewater surveillance as a vital tool to monitor both human and environmental health

    Systematic variation in food web body-size structure linked to external subsidies.

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    The relationship between body mass (M) and size class abundance (N) depicts patterns of community structure and energy flow through food webs. While the general assumption is that M and N scale linearly (on log-log axes), nonlinearity is regularly observed in natural systems, and is theorized to be driven by nonlinear scaling of trophic level (TL) with M resulting in the rapid transfer of energy to consumers in certain size classes. We tested this hypothesis with data from 31 stream food webs. We predicted that allochthonous subsidies higher in the web results in nonlinear M-TL relationships and systematic abundance peaks in macroinvertebrate and fish size classes (latter containing salmonids), that exploit terrestrial plant material and terrestrial invertebrates, respectively. Indeed, both M-N and M-TL significantly deviated from linear relationships and the observed curvature in M-TL scaling was inversely related to that observed in M-N relationships. Systemic peaks in M-N, and troughs in M-TL occurred in size classes dominated by generalist invertebrates, and brown trout. Our study reveals how allochthonous resources entering high in the web systematically shape community size structure and demonstrates the relevance of a generalized metabolic scaling model for understanding patterns of energy transfer in energetically 'open' food webs

    The effects of climatic fluctuations and extreme events on running water ecosystems

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    Most research on the effects of environmental change in freshwaters has focused on incremental changes in average conditions, rather than fluctuations or extreme events such as heatwaves, cold snaps, droughts, floods or wildfires, which may have even more profound consequences. Such events are commonly predicted to increase in frequency, intensity and duration with global climate change, with many systems being exposed to conditions with no recent historical precedent. We propose a mechanistic framework for predicting potential impacts of environmental fluctuations on running-water ecosystems by scaling up effects of fluctuations from individuals to entire ecosystems. This framework requires integration of four key components: effects of the environment on individual metabolism, metabolic and biomechanical constraints on fluctuating species interactions, assembly dynamics of local food webs, and mapping the dynamics of the meta-community onto ecosystem function. We illustrate the framework by developing a mathematical model of environmental fluctuations on dynamically assembling food webs. We highlight (currently limited) empirical evidence for emerging insights and theoretical predictions. For example, widely supported predictions about the effects of environmental fluctuations are: high vulnerability of species with high per capita metabolic demands such as large-bodied ones at the top of food webs; simplification of food web network structure and impaired energetic transfer efficiency; and reduced resilience and top-down relative to bottom-up regulation of food web and ecosystem processes. We conclude by identifying key questions and challenges that need to be addressed to develop more accurate and predictive bio-assessments of the effects of fluctuations, and implications of fluctuations for management practices in an increasingly uncertain world
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