A hierarchical approach to the examination of the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem service flows across coastal margins.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Ocean and Earth Science

Abstract

The health of the UK's coastlines is inextricably linked to our success as an island nation, and resonates through our economy, our recreation, and our culture. Most pressingly, of all the UK's many and varied landscapes, its coastal systems are the ones most immediately sensitive to climate change. As temperatures increase, sea levels will rise and the forces experienced where land and sea meet will become more destructive. Salt marshes, mudflats, beaches and rocky shores will all be affected but, of these areas, the most sensitive are the mudflats and salt marshes that are common features of coastal systems, and which comprise just over half of the UK's total estuarine area. Not only do these landscapes support a wide range of economically valuable animal and plant species, they also act as sites of carbon storage, nutrient recycling, and pollutant capture and destruction. Their preservation is, therefore, of the utmost importance, requiring active and informed management to save them for future generations. The Natural Environment Research Council's call to help understand the landscape-scale links between the functions that these systems provide (ecosystem service flows) and the organisms that help provide these services (biodiversity stocks) offers an important opportunity to move beyond most previous work in this field, which has been conducted at small or laboratory scales. While of foundational scientific importance, the implications of laboratory studies can be hard to translate into policy, and coastal managers require a clearer evidence base to understand how ecosystem service flows operate at much larger spatial scales, e.g. entire salt marshes or regions of intertidal flat and salt marshes. The programme we are proposing 'A hierarchical approach to the examination of the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem service flows across coastal margins' (CBESS) will provide such a large scale understanding. Our consortium of UK experts ranges from microbial ecologists, through environmental economists, to mathematical modellers, including organisations like the BTO and the RSPB, who have immediate and vested interest in the sustainable use of coastal wetlands.

Together, CBESS will create a study that spans the landscape scale, investigating how biodiversity stocks provide the following ecosystem services (cf. National Ecosystem Assessment).

- Supporting' services: nutrient cycling, healthy habitat
- Provisions services; goods obtained from the landscape
- Regulating' services: coastal protection, climate regulation (greenhouse gas exchange, carbon sequestration)
- Cultural services: Recreation (walking, canoeing, angling, birding, hunting and beauty)

CBESS will combine the detailed study of two regional landscapes with a broad-scale UK-wide study to allow both specific and general conclusions to be drawn. The Regional study will compare two areas of great local and national importance: Morecambe Bay on the west coast and the Essex coastline on the east coast. We will carry out biological and physical surveys at more than 600 stations and use these results to clarify how biodiversity can provide these important ecosystem functions. This information will be shared with those interested in using and managing coastal systems and, after our analysis; we will propose practical methods and improved tools for the future analysis, management, and sustainability of the UK's coastal wetlands.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research, and how?

Commercial private sector and the knowledge economy: CBESS provides new knowledge, new data, and tools to assist the sustainable management of coastal landscapes. Theme 5 of CBESS will also deliver new and innovative methodologies, equipment, techniques, and technologies to assess the role of biodiversity in the provision of ecosystems services. This framework is based on the HiMOM (Hierarchical monitoring of marine systems) EU programme, in providing a 'tool kit' and case studies for use by coastal managers. The research itself is based on an interdisciplinary framework that will provide a model for future programmes in the UK and abroad, through initiatives such as the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, the world's largest cluster of conservation organisations that focus on biodiversity research, policy and practice. Since many commercial interests rely on sustainable wetland socio-ecosystem service flows, beneficiaries will be correspondingly varied: Recreation (e.g. wildfowling, angling, walking) and commerce (e.g. fisheries, farming, cafes, museums, exhibits) that uses the local landscape will see long-term benefits.

Policy professionals, governmental and devolved governmental organisations: The CBESS consortium hinges on the full involvement (see attached Letters of Support) of a wide range of partner organisations with an explicit interest in policy and the management of coastal wetlands. Members will disseminate information far beyond the immediate circle of CBESS. Our Partners include the Government Office for Science, the Environment Agency and its devolved counterparts (NIEA, SEPA), the Freshwater Biological Association, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and The James Hutton Institute. In addition, through the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS), the Consortium has access to the Scottish Marine Forum, Marine Scotland, Marine Science Scotland, The Centre of Expertise for Waters, and the Centre of Expertise for Climate Change; a constituency of several thousand members.

The British public: The intrinsic value of publically accessible wetland is widely recognised, enhancing our culture, quality of life, and health. Given that most people experience their surroundings at, and live their daily lives within, the 'landscape' scale, CBESS will enhance evidence based policy-making and support robust legislation at a local, regional, national and international level (see Pathways to Impact).
Voluntary sectors and wider public: Wetland wildlife habitats attract dedicated support from the voluntary sector (e.g The British Trust for Ornithology, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Essex Wildlife Trust). CBESS's econometric approach will examine the scale-dependence of wetland use by public, recreational (e.g fishing, birdwatching) and voluntary groups (Litter clearance, nature guides), adding to our Partners' understanding of overall wetland service provision. Through our Partners, new groups will become part of the CBESS constituency and informed about the project.

Skills training. Three areas of benefit arise from CBESS. In addition to academic progression, early career researchers will gain experience in planning and conducting a large and complex programme. PhDs associated with CBESS will gain from the interdisciplinary, and highly cooperative, nature of the work. Finally, areas of CBESS work lie in the traditional skills of sampling and taxonomy (cf. floral and infaunal biodiversity) which will be supported within CBESS and staff encourage to develop skills (taxonomy courses include in costings).
 
Description We have determined that the relationship between biodiversity and important ecosystem properties is dependent on season, location and the scale over which this relationship is assessed and that all of these variables have different effects across different habitats.
Exploitation Route Good environmental status
Delivery of ecosystem services
Biodiversity monitoring
Sectors Environment

URL http://synergy.st-andrews.ac.uk/cbess/
 
Description Project findings thus far have been presented at the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity in Qindao, China (October 2014), and at Nereis Park conference in New York, July 2017.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Discussions with various marine stakeholders at Coastal Futures, to outline where our research findings can fulfil their evidence requirements and current research priorities
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Influenced opinion and knowledge base.
 
Title Coastal Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability (CBESS) population bioturbation potential in mudflat and saltmarsh habitats 
Description Invertebrate population bioturbation potential in mudflat and saltmarsh habitats 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact None known 
URL http://doi.org/10.5285/6d06122c-c856-4127-b7a5-34059d0e48e7
 
Title Coastal biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability (CBESS) individual bioturbation potential in mudflat and saltmarsh habitats 
Description Invertebrate individual bioturbation potential in mudflat and saltmarsh habitats 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact None known 
URL http://doi.org/10.5285/897d03de-f88c-46b8-a2ab-e6899d39f4f8
 
Title Coastal biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability (CBESS) macrofaunal abundance in mudflat and saltmarsh habitats 
Description Invertebrate macrofaunal abundance in mudflat and saltmarsh habitats 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact None known 
URL http://doi.org/10.5285/d5317679-449f-4829-9caf-39973fe27c07
 
Title Coastal biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability (CBESS) macrofaunal biomass in mudflat and saltmarsh habitats 
Description Invertebrate macrofaunal biomass in mudflat and saltmarsh habitats 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact None known 
URL http://doi.org/10.5285/0990858a-facc-47c5-bfbe-58fa30431db8
 
Title Coastal biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability (CBESS) macrofaunal community metrics - total abundance, total biomass, species richness, evenness and community bioturbation potential in mudflat and saltmarsh habitats 
Description Invertebrate macrofaunal community metrics - total abundance, total biomass, species richness, evenness and community bioturbation potential in mudflat and saltmarsh habitats 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact None known 
URL http://doi.org/10.5285/f7bad4d2-aef2-4db6-be34-adbe185b88c3
 
Title Coastal biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability (CBESS) sediment particle size in mudflat and saltmarsh habitats 
Description sediment particle size in mudflat and saltmarsh habitats 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact None known 
URL http://doi.org/10.5285/4e6a2e58-6916-4212-8b2e-e30942b0a05a
 
Title Coastal biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability (CBESS) total organic carbon in mudflat and saltmarsh habitats 
Description Total organic carbon in mudflat and saltmarsh habitats 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact None known 
URL http://doi.org/10.5285/d4e9f0f7-637a-4aa4-b9df-2a4ca5bfaded
 
Description Planet under Pressure Conference "New Knowledge towards solutions" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Presented invited poster and participated in UKOARP stand
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description The effects of ocean acidification and temperature on the physiology and burrowing behaviour of two infaunal invertebrates 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited speaker to seminar series at the University of Sheffield

Gave plenary talk entitled "The effects of ocean acidification and temperature on the physiology and burrowing behaviour of two infaunal invertebrates" and participated in questions/answers sessions with research students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Wessex Conservation forum 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Gave talk on biodiversity-ecosystem function research going on within CBESS project and discussed research synergies with members of this community.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015