CLM Spring issue 2018 - Magazine - Page 32
The increasing importance of monitoring wildlife responses to habitat management
Box 2 Intervention terms
Habitat patch: An area of semi-natural habitat, of any
size, forming a unit for some intervention and usually
perceived to be distinct from its surroundings in its
Core habitat: Habitat patches considered to be
of high quality for wildlife. Patches of core habitat
will typically be semi-natural and include, but not be
confined to, all protected areas and County Wildlife
Sites. Not all core habitat is long-established. New
habitat and restoration habitat (see below) could, and
should, become core habitat in time; in the case of early
successional species, this could occur quite rapidly. Core
habitat may change as a consequence of succession but
nonetheless retain high wildlife importance, albeit for
Restoration habitat: Habitat patches which have
fallen into a low-quality state for wildlife and where
restoration aims to return them to high quality and to
add them to the pool of core habitat. This definition
can include patches undergoing restoration and ones
that have been apparently restored. Restoration does
not necessarily imply the strict re-creation of some
former state or condition. Restoration interventions will
often be similar to those employed in ongoing habitat
New habitat: Entirely new habitat patches which
are intended to support viable populations of some
species, possibly as part of a wider network of sites.
These may be extensions to existing core habitat or
entirely separate. Unlike restoration habitat, new habitat
involves a fundamental change in land cover, creating
wildlife habitat where it did not previously exist, e.g.
on former agricultural or industrial land. New habitat
and restoration habitat have entirely different starting
conditions; this is likely to have significant implications
for the trajectory and speed of change in wildlife. The
intensity and timing of management interventions are
also likely to differ.
Managed habitat: Habitat management is crucial
to maintaining habitat quality for target taxa in many
contexts. Different management treatments may be
area of existing habitat patches. The expectation
is that colonisation of new habitat by ‘desirable’
species will be more rapid when it is located adjacent
to existing high-quality habitat.
• Restoring habitat quality through management
interventions. ‘Restoring’ does not necessarily mean
reverting to some previous state or condition; a new
habitat structure or management system that has
wildlife value could be introduced.
• Novel landscape-scale management to create
new kinds of plant and animal assemblages.
Where habitat patches are sufficiently large, or
interconnected, ‘natural processes’ may form a
employed within the same habitat types, either to
benefit different taxa or because responses are uncertain.
Management can be subtly different from restoration.
Management may have been continuing over a long
period with the aim of maintaining habitat suitability,
frequently for early successional species, whereas
restoration implies a period of neglect followed by
intervention aimed at restoring some desired condition.
Connecting habitat: Habitat features within
ecological networks that provide ‘stepping stones’ or
that physically link habitat patches in ways that are
assumed to facilitate movement of plants and animals
through landscapes. The creation of new habitat is
usually involved, but restoration may be relevant, for
example where particular vegetation structures have
been lost as a result of succession. What constitutes
biologically meaningful ‘connecting habitat’ can be
difficult to determine, because species differ so greatly
in their dispersal ability and in the habitats that facilitate
their movement. In reality, connectivity has functional
meaning only in the context of the needs and behaviour
of the focal species.
Habitat gradients: Frequently, habitat patches may
contain various forms of gradient from one condition
to another. There may be a transition from dry to
wet conditions, from grassland to woodland, from
grass to heather, and so on. In the context of wildlifemonitoring, gradients are important. Much wildlife
interest may reside at the interface between distinctly
different vegetation types. Consequently, these
transition zones may need to be explicitly accounted
for in monitoring designs. The existence of a habitat
gradient can provide opportunities to assess how
a species responds to interventions when these are
implemented across a range of conditions.
Matrix habitat: The rest of the landscape/region not
covered by the previous six categories. It is, therefore,
broadly that part of the landscape where there is no
particular focus on wildlife conservation within seminatural habitat patches. Agri-environment measures,
however, may occur within the matrix.
major element of the conservation approach. It
is most likely that this would involve extensive
grazing. Outcomes may be entirely ‘open-ended’
(i.e. no expectation of a particular outcome) or the
works be directed at the creation of desired habitat
structures. They may allow for the development
of shifting mosaics of vegetation which maintain
early- and mid-successional habitats in perpetuity.
Relationships between the main types of
interventions and approaches to landscape-scale
conservation are illustrated in Fig. 1 (page 177).
Various ways of testing wildlife responses to these
interventions are possible. Given the variation in
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