BESS Connect Subscription – the newsletter of the NERC BESS Directorate

Latest news from the NERC BESS programme

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Our landscapes need to be managed appropriately to ensure the sustainable delivery of benefits to society such as clean water, food production and flood protection. Currently we do not truly understand the linkages between biodiversity within landscapes and services flows. Without this knowledge we are managing our landscapes under great uncertainty.

Biodiversity & Ecosystem Service Sustainability (BESS) is a six-year (2011-2017) NERC research programme, designed to reduce that uncertainty. It will answer fundamental questions about the functional role of biodiversity in key ecosystem processes at the landscape scale and how these are likely to change in an uncertain future.

Our aim is to provide an improved evidence base for those managing our landscapes so they are in a much better position to make decisions about the inevitable trade-offs required to ensure our sustainable futures.

** Welcome to BESS-Connect!

** The latest updates from the NERC Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Sustainability programme
Zoe Austin (BESS Directorate member) talks about new developments of the Ecosystem Mapping Gateway (http://www.nerc-bess.net/ne-ess/)

** UK landscapes under pressure…
A new report from the Natural Capital Committee (https://www.naturalcapitalcommittee.org/home.html) highlights the decline of England’s natural capital – the elements of nature providing services such as food, clean water and recreation that we rely on. Read more here… (http://www.nerc-bess.net/index.php/news-and-events/200-report-from-natural-capital-committee-protecting-and-improving-natural-capital-for-prosperity-and-wellbeing)

BESS Consortia are providing valuable insight into the connections between biodiversity and the services different landscapes provide to help halt this decline. For example, working in urban areas have been investigating the well-being and wildlife benefits green-spaces can bring.
They have been asking residents their preferences for different habitats (http://bess-urban.group.shef.ac.uk/aesthetics-biodiversity-and-clipboards/) including experimental meadow plots. By collecting data on insect numbers and species (http://bess-urban.group.shef.ac.uk/do-you-like-what-insects-like/) from these same green-spaces the researchers can compare peoples preferences for planting to those of insects to see whether they match up. Alongside the questionnaire responses and surveys the team have also been actively measuring the environment (http://bess-urban.group.shef.ac.uk/is-it-the-bbc-no-its-the-backpack/) using backpack mounted sensors to evaluate the experience of different types of urban spaces.

This combination of approaches and the rich understanding it provides is the kind of data the Committee says we need to improve our future natural capital management (http://www.nerc-bess.net/index.php/news-and-events/200-report-from-natural-capital-committee-protecting-and-improving-natural-capital-for-prosperity-and-wellbeing) .

** New hi-tech mapping approaches providing valuable new information
BESS consortia have been experimenting with new high resolution laser surveying approaches to get a better understanding of landscapes structure and functioning.
http://bess-urban.group.shef.ac.uk/ have been using a laser scanner (http://bess-urban.group.shef.ac.uk/lasers-in-the-garden-and-in-the-air/) in the back gardens of Luton to accurately (and non-destructively) measure the vegetation canopy. Meanwhile have been using similar technology on salt marshes (http://synergy.st-andrews.ac.uk/cbess/news/progress-report/bangor-3d-scan-of-a-saltmarsh/) producing detailed information of the terrain as shown in this video…
These experimental approaches are allowing the teams to understand how these landscapes function and could be used to provide high resolution environmental monitoring.

** From data to understanding?
The BESS researchers have been collecting large amounts of new information on ecosystems, biodiversity and the services they provide over the past two years. But how can all this data be combined to improve our understanding at the landscape scale decision makers often work at? This was the challenge tackled at their annual science meeting. Read more here… (http://synergy.st-andrews.ac.uk/cbess/news/progress-report/cbess-annual-science-meeting-2015/)

Does enhancing biodiversity increase carbon storage?
have been investigating this question on the Salisbury Plains grasslands using experimental plots treated to encourage different levels of biodiversity. This season the team will also be experimenting with changing the climatic conditions to mimic IPCC (http://www.ipcc.ch/) scenarios of our future rainfall patterns. Click here (http://www.brc.ac.uk/wessexbess/node/25) to read their findings on whether biodiversity richness influences carbon storage.

** New evidence on the ecosystem service trade-offs for development?
An interesting new paper (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10113-014-0748-z) led by Md Sarwar Hossain (http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Md_Sarwar_Hossain/publications) published in Regional Environmental Change (http://link.springer.com/journal/10113) uses time series data from Bangladesh to investigate the interaction of development, ecosystem services and human well-being.

It’s not what you say but how you say it…
How can we communicate concepts like biodiversity and ecosystem services to different audiences?
A new report (http://www.nerc-bess.net/index.php/news-and-events/195-new-report-it-s-not-what-you-say-but-how-you-say-it) from the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (http://www.cieem.net/) provides some interesting insights for researchers.

** Don’t forget the insects!
BESS is all about crossing decision making scales so whilst some researchers consider landscapes other consortium members have been zooming in to better understand the role of insects in different habitats. have been looking at the interactions of salt marsh salinity and vegetation on beetle and spider populations (http://synergy.st-andrews.ac.uk/cbess/news/progress-report/bangor-beetles-and-spiders/) . Meanwhile have been investigating urban insects to better understand their function in our cities greens-spaces (http://bess-urban.group.shef.ac.uk/the-three-ps-tillids-sillids-and-sockids/) . This work links to new findings on the rapid expansion of tree bumblebees range in UK conurbations (recently published in PLoS One (http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0107568#pone-0107568-g003) ) as they exploit untapped foraging sites and the role that landscape management could have on supporting pollinator populations.

** Plan for the future
The BESS network of early career researchers have been busy planning the future of the group and appointing new officers. Read the latest news on the appointments and updates of NRG activities here… (http://www.nrgbess.net/news/)


** Next Issue
Spring will be in the air and we will bring you news of the latest BESS field campaigns…

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