Resilience of floodplain productivity to Environmental Change

Lead Research Organisation: Open University
Department Name: Faculty of Sci, Tech, Eng & Maths (STEM)


The productivity of vegetation will inevitably change in response to environmental change. One of the landscapes likely to be most affected by small shifts in the climate is floodplains, because their hydrology responds to changes across the whole catchment. In turn, their hydrology drives their ecology, which is dominated by flood events, such that their ability to provide important ecosystem services including agricultural products, water-quality improvement and biodiversity conservation may alter substantially in response to a small shift in the catchment's water balance. Because many facors are involved in determining the productivity of the system, it is very difficult to predict or model their response to change without long runs of data to describe how they have responded to changes in the past. Such datasets are very rare. Many studies only last a few years and are unable to capture the impact of the full flood cycle. Floodplain ecosystem can be perturbed by a flood event over a pereiod of ten or tenty years.
A number of datasets, some running for more than 40 years have come to light in the former Soviet Union. Their existence is barely known outside the Russian-speaking world and the data are currently not being used by climate modellers working around the globe. This project aims to build relationships with the researchers who hold these long term datasets and thence to make the data available to research groups around the world who would find them useful. To do this, the plan is to visit the researchers in Russia and Belarus to gain a precise understanding of what data they hold and how they were collected. In order to standardise the data so that they can be compared across regions, some new data will be collected in the summer of 2015 following a fixed protocol, which will allow for any discrepancies between the older methods to be accounted for.
Once the data are organised and comparable, we will design a format for them to be accessed by the wider community and then stage a workshop to which leading researchers from across the UK, Europe and Russia will be invited to discuss the potential of these new data. The datasets will be summarised and presented at the workshop to drive the discussions forward.

Planned Impact

The immediate impact of the project, following the workshop, will be on other researchers who will be interested to use the data accessed in this project. The data will help build and test new hypotheses around how the productivity of a floodplain system is determined and its consequences for species assemblages. As results of this work are published and picked up by the community of climate-change modellers, the data will serve to either reinforce the current set of assumptions giving greater confidence to existing predictions or will serve to highlight weaknesses in our current set of assumptions, precipitating change in the modelling parameters.
Description We have collated data from a wide range of meadow systems across Eurasia and sought to standardize field methodologies in order to make data more comparable. The effect of climate on plant community composition is still being investigated.
Exploitation Route The network of researchers established and the documentation of data holdings will give future researchers a useful system to explore a climatic gradient.
Sectors Environment

Description Santander University Travel Funding
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation Santander UK Ltd. 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2016 
End 04/2016
Description STakeholder meeting (Abingdon) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The workshop presented the results of the FUSE project to stakeholders (statutory authorities, NGOs, local groups, meadow managers) through a series of talks followed by a field walk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015