CLM Spring issue 2018 - Page 38



The increasing importance of monitoring wildlife responses to habitat management
between managed and unmanaged treatments.
Furthermore, one may wish to test responses to
different kinds of management by matching samples
under different treatments, where ‘conventional’ or
‘traditional’ treatments may be regarded as a control
against which a ‘novel’ treatment is compared.
Replicates, controls and benchmarks in the
real world
Conservation is frequently dealing with sites that
are highly individual, distinctive and sometimes
unique. This can make it difficult to find valid and
suitable controls, benchmarks or replicates. It is
worth bearing in mind that the real world operates
by drawing on many kinds of information; not all
monitoring has to reach the highest standards of a
rigorous experiment. Even though the design might
not match the requirements of a peer-reviewed
paper in the scientific literature, results from very
simple monitoring can be enormously informative.
Wherever possible, it is highly desirable to adopt
replicates to measure the effects of specific habitat
changes on wildlife; one needs to know whether
observed changes are constant. Even two replicates
are better than none. The adoption of replicates
may, however, prove impractical in some instances.
So, are replicates absolutely essential?
An alternative approach is to focus on monitoring case studies, i.e. single examples of habitat
creation or restoration. Case studies are definitely
Studies of wet-grassland management have
determined the conditions that benefit breeding
waders such as Lapwing and Redshank. Howard
Stockdale/BTOImages
worthwhile, especially if the types of contrast
discussed above can be included within them. They
can act as good-practice demonstration sites, especially where the benefits can be illustrated by using
the data from monitoring. Even if no replication
is possible at the time, a later case study, following
the same interventions and using the same monitoring protocols, may provide an effective replicate
some years after. It is strongly suggested that the
value of case studies could be greatly increased by
forming monitoring partnerships to establish sets
of related case studies, each set addressing some
intervention matter in common. For example,
these partnerships could be among different
Wildlife Trusts, with interventions spread across
several Living Landscapes. Hence, the ‘replicates’
might be spread over a wide geographical area. If
these case studies were designed and monitored in
comparable ways, some of the benefits of replicates
within a single scheme could be derived.
The concepts of controls and benchmarks are
clearly closely linked and complementary, the former
effectively looking backwards (how far have we
travelled?), the latter forwards (how much farther
do we have to go?). It is often questionable whether
both are needed, and careful consideration should
be given on a case-by-case basis. The wider value
of controls and benchmarks is context-dependent
and depends on the nature of the intervention.
Conservationists may feel that neither a control nor
a benchmark is justifiable, because both of these
merely waste resources and areas of land that could
be directed towards priority conservation action on
the ground. An argument can sometimes be made
that it is self-evident whether or not habitat creation
has succeeded – have lots of ‘interesting species’
colonised or not? This viewpoint is understandable where there is a wholesale transformation of
the landscape from one that is demonstrably poor
in wildlife, for example where arable farmland
is converted to wetland. In such cases, a simple
benchmarking process might involve identifying
the target species and then establishing systematic
monitoring to track whether these species (as well
as other ‘interesting species’) do colonise and, if so,
on what scale. Even in such extreme cases, controls
are not entirely without value; quantitative evidence
that large-scale habitat transformation makes a
big difference for wildlife is valuable in policy and
educational terms.
184 British Wildlife February 2016
BWM27_3 07 monitoring-v2.indd 184
29/01/2016 13:49

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