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Measuring stock and change in the GB countryside for policy: key findings and developments from the Countryside Survey 2007 field survey

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

  • L. R. Norton
  • L. C. Maskell
  • S. S. Smart
  • M. J. Dunbar
  • B. A. Emmett
  • P. D. Carey
  • P. Williams
  • A. Crowe
  • K. Chandler
  • W. A. Scott
  • C. M. Wood
Journal publication date30/12/2012
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Volume113
Number of pages11
Pages117-127
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Countryside Survey is a unique large scale long-term monitoring programme investigating stock and change of habitats, landscape features, vegetation, soil and freshwaters of Great Britain. Repeat field surveys combine policy and scientific objectives to provide evidence on how multiple aspects of the environment are changing over time, a key goal of international science in the face of profound human impacts on ecosystems. Countryside Survey 2007 (CS2007), the fifth survey since 1978, retained consistency with previous surveys, whilst evolving in line with technological and conceptual advances in the collection and integration of data to understand landscape change. This paper outlines approaches taken in the 2007 survey and its subsequent analysis and presents some of the headline results of the survey and their relevance for national and international policy objectives.

Key changes between 1998 and 2007 included: a) significant shifts in agricultural land cover from arable to grassland, accompanied by increases in the area of broadleaved woodland, b) decreases in the length of managed hedges associated with agricultural land, as a proportion deteriorated to lines of trees and c) increases in the areas and numbers of wet habitats (standing open water, ponds) and species preferring wetter conditions (1998-2007 and 1978-2007). Despite international policy directed at maintaining and enhancing biodiversity, there were widespread decreases in species richness in all linear and area habitats, except on arable land, consistent with an increase in competitive and late successional species between 1998 and 2007 and 1978 and 2007. Late successional and competitive species: Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), Hawthorn (Cratageous monogyna) and Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), in the top ten recorded species recorded in 2007, all increased between 1998 and 2007. The most commonly recorded species in CS (1990, 1998 and 2007) was agricultural Ryegrass (Lolium perenne).

Increases in both water quality and soil pH were in line with policy aimed at addressing previous deterioration of both. Headwater streams broadly showed continued improvements in biological quality from 1998 to 2007, continuing trends seen since 1990. In soils, there were significant increases in soil pH between 1998 and 2007 consistent with recovery from acidification. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.