CLM Spring issue 2018 - Magazine - Page 33
The increasing importance of monitoring wildlife responses to habitat management
objectives and contexts of landscape-scale conservation, a terminology for interventions is helpful (see
Box 2). In practice, however, the distinctions are
not always clear-cut and there will be grey areas.
When does ‘created habitat’ cease to be thought
of as ‘new’ habitat? When does deteriorating core
habitat become potential restoration habitat? When
does restoration habitat achieve core-habitat status?
Questions and issues that can be addressed
Landscape ecology has established important
principles concerning the interaction of species with
habitat extent, spatial pattern and fragmentation
(Southwood 1977; Lindenmayer & Fischer 2006;
Lindenmayer et al. 2008). Much of the relevant
research has been undertaken in North America
or Australia, where the biological communities
and, perhaps more importantly, the history and
scale of landscape modification are very different
from those in western Europe (Martin et al. 2012a,
2012b). It cannot be assumed that these findings
always offer an optimum basis for developing
habitat-based initiatives in Britain. At the simplest
level, the existing principles are embodied in Fig.
1 and form the best basis that we have for action.
There is, however, much scope for refining these
for application in different cultural landscapes and
socio-economic contexts. Furthermore, most of
these principles have been developed by studying
wildlife responses to habitat loss and fragmentation
Coppice under restoration in west Dorset. How
quickly do species of young open woodland colonise
woodland being brought back into a coppice
rotation after a long period of neglect? Rob Fuller
(i.e. existing spatial patterns of habitat), rather than
responses to habitat creation and restoration. The
latter is not a simple reversal of the former, because
many processes and features of the environment will
have irredeemably changed through a long history
of human activity – for example, nutrient inputs,
different assemblages of predators, the loss of former
keystone species and the gain of new ones, possibly
including some non-native species. Conservation is
also operating in a situation in which many species
are shifting their geographical range, and potentially
their habitat use, in response to climate changes,
rather than as a result of habitat interventions.
Well-designed and conducted monitoring can help
to distinguish these confounding factors and address
many questions relevant to conservation in modern
and future landscapes. To some extent the answers
are likely to be specific to different contexts and
taxa, but general principles may emerge that build
on those which we already have.
Six generic questions about habitat creation
and restoration are listed below. These and similar
questions are frequently posed by conservationists;
in addition, a profusion of specific questions could
be asked with regard to how wildlife responds
to different management treatments within core,
restoration or new habitat. This list is not definitive;
other types of question could be formulated, and
regional priorities vary, as do the contexts in which
the questions may apply.
1. How does wildlife in new habitat change over
time and how does it come to compare with that in
existing similar core habitat?
2. How does wildlife in restoration habitat compare
with that in existing similar core habitat?
3. How does wildlife respond within restoration
and new habitat when isolated from, or adjacent
to, core habitat?
4. How does provision of connecting habitat
between otherwise separate patches of core, restoration and new habitat affect wildlife?
5. Is close proximity of new or restored habitat
adjacent to core habitat a better option for wildlife
than provision of connecting features between core
6. How do habitat structure and composition within
the matrix (the land between patches of conservation habitat) affect conservation success within
core, restoration and new habitat (in the absence of
provision of connecting habitat)?
February 2016 British Wildlife 179
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