CLM Spring issue 2018 - Magazine - Page 34
The increasing importance of monitoring wildlife responses to habitat management
As resources available for conservation are
limited, decisions will frequently be needed about
where to invest effort. One way to tackle this is to
identify those opportunities that give the greatest
information gains, for instance by answering several
of the above questions. Questions 1 and 2 are
relatively basic but critically important, especially
when they are framed in the context of particular
management approaches adopted in habitat creation
or restoration. Questions 3 to 6 are somewhat more
refined variants of the first two questions.
Some real-life examples of potential monitoring
studies are given in Box 3 on page 182, together
with the questions and general approaches that
could be adopted.
Basic monitoring approaches and
Decisions will usually be needed on how to
maximise the quality and value of the information
derived from monitoring for the resources that
can be committed. Four points are of paramount
1. The monitoring needs to be sustainable in terms of
available resources and commitment. We advocate
simple designs, rather than complex experiments.
Resources will always limit what can be undertaken
and, the more complicated the monitoring scheme,
the less sustainable it is likely to be.
2. The data need to be gathered by using the same
methods and intensity of sampling over time to
ensure long-term comparability.
3. The treatment itself (i.e. the exact interventions)
needs to be well documented and measures of
habitat change recorded.
4. There is absolutely no point in embarking
on monitoring if there is no chance that it will
produce relevant and reliable information. The
objectives need to be clear and the basic design
must be appropriate. This requires consideration
of controls, benchmarks, replicates, sample sizes
and sampling frequency.
The inclusion of control habitat is often essential
in order to determine whether the intervention is
really making any difference to wildlife. It may be
possible to strengthen the design further by gathering data before the intervention is made, allowing a
‘before and after’ comparison as well as a ‘with and
without intervention’ comparison. Benchmark or
reference habitat forms a complementary concept in
representing a desirable state or condition that one
may wish new or restored habitat to attain. Ideally,
several examples (replicates) of the particular intervention of interest are needed in order to be reasonably sure that the observed response is constant and
general. The countryside is hugely complex, and in
practice these concepts can be difficult to apply, so
they are discussed in more detail later in this article.
Large habitat-creation schemes present rather
different monitoring challenges from those in which
relatively small-scale interventions are spread more
widely across the landscape. The former are ‘landscapes in themselves’ and the monitoring can be
structured in such a way that replicates are internal
to the initiative. Monitoring of smaller interventions,
however, does not usually provide information
about whether wildlife improvements are being
realised at the wider landscape scale. ‘Landscape’
in this context does not, for example, have to mean
an entire Living Landscape. It could be sensible to
target monitoring on focal areas where there is an
especially strong prospect of creating or restoring
substantial amounts of wildlife-rich habitat. In
the long term, conservation is more likely to have
influence in the sphere of protecting and creating
semi-natural habitat than it is in enhancing the
quality of the agricultural and urbanised matrix.
Focal areas may, therefore, be best located where
quantities of semi-natural habitat are relatively high.
The emphasis here is on developing appropriate
study designs, rather than on how to analyse the
Woodland glade at Swanton Novers NNR, Norfolk.
Techniques for the creation of complex glade
structures in woodland have been little studied.
180 British Wildlife February 2016
BWM27_3 07 monitoring-v2.indd 180