CLM Spring issue 2018 - Page 31

The increasing importance of monitoring wildlife responses to habitat management
has huge potential value for understanding which
conservation approaches will work best for different taxa and habitat types in the future. In Britain
we are fortunate in having national monitoring
programmes and atlases that allow us to track the
general status of many taxa (Maclean 2010; Preston
et al. 2012). These schemes generate invaluable data,
but very few are designed to inform us about the
performance of specific conservation interventions.
We argue that the conservation movement needs
to become far more strategic in monitoring the
consequences of its actions and sharing the results
of monitoring.
Some of the most exciting conservation schemes
are being undertaken at very large spatial scales.
For example, the Living Landscapes initiative of The
Wildlife Trusts embraces more than 100 schemes
throughout Britain. Individual schemes vary greatly
in size – The Great Fen, in Cambridgeshire, is some
3,500ha, whereas Pumlumon, in west-central
Wales, is 40,000ha. Monitoring of wildlife in any
detail across an entire Living Landscape scheme
would be impossible in most cases. We suggest
that opportunities should be taken to establish
long-term monitoring schemes in sample areas,
including nature reserves, where a major effort is
being made to create and improve habitat. The
emphasis would be mainly on assessing whether
habitat of high wildlife quality is being established.
The quality of the evidence will be maximised by
adopting structured, but straightforward, study
designs, some of which we explore in this article. A
recently developed online system has the potential to
act as a basis for capturing such data and for sharing
the resulting information (Box 1).
The diversity of conservation interventions
Habitat-based conservation schemes are conducted
in many types of landscapes differing greatly in
habitats and wildlife. For example, some Living
Landscape schemes aim to improve the general
‘landscape quality’ for wildlife across a defined area.
Others have a vision of establishing an expanse of
wildlife-rich habitat in a previously wildlife-poor
environment (e.g. The Great Fen). Most schemes,
however, probably focus on selected tracts of
countryside which have high, or potentially high,
wildlife value with the intention of enhancing their
capacity to support sustainable wildlife popula-
Figure 1 Relationships between major interventions
likely to be used for increasing the quality of
landscapes for wildlife (with reference to the
Lawton Review headline conclusions: Lawton et
al. 2010). The emphasis is on actions affecting the
quality and quantity of core patches of semi-natural
habitat and increasing the connections between
them. Particular emphasis is given to the importance
of establishing and maintaining core habitat,
because this provides the critical resources that
much wildlife, especially specialist species, requires.
tions. The emphasis could be either on meeting the
requirements of particular species or on providing
diverse habitat structures at micro and macro scales
that will support a wide range of species. Given this
diversity, it is essential that monitoring approaches
are appropriate for local aims and circumstances.
Just as there is no single best way of doing conservation, there is no single best way to monitor.
Conservation interventions are frequently targeted
at ‘desirable’ species. These may be locally or nationally scarce, or ones that are especially distinctive of
particular habitat types. Extra attention may be
given to species that are poor dispersers, because
only mobile species will reach new habitat quickly.
In all cases, the provision of sufficient high-quality
habitat containing the key resources is crucial, but
for poor dispersers habitat connectivity becomes
increasingly critical. Where there is a strong focus
on one or more desirable species, it is obviously
vital to understand the basic ecology in order to
develop a sound management plan. Several general
approaches to intervention can be recognised:
• Increasing structural and functional connectivity
to improve movement of organisms between existing
habitat patches, establish sustainable metapopulations and facilitate colonisation of potential habitat.
• Creating new habitat patches and extending the
February 2016 British Wildlife 177
BWM27_3 07 monitoring-v2.indd 177
29/01/2016 13:48


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