Photo: Madalin Mocanu
Why is evidence important?
Landscape and seascape restoration projects are often multi-faceted, complex, expensive, and difficult to implement; they take place at large temporal and spatial scales, and outcomes can take decades to understand and tend to be context dependent. For these reasons it is important that they take an evidence-based approach, informed by scientific research, transfer of lessons from other projects, and the experience of local communities. However, there is a scarcity of studies describing the outcomes of landscape restoration in Europe, making it difficult to ensure that both policy and practice are evidence-based.
The Endangered Landscapes & Seascapes Programme works with the projects that we fund to design and carry out effective monitoring and to implement restoration trials to assess the impact of restoration actions. This data helps build the evidence base for landscape and seascape restoration, whilst demonstrating the benefits that restoration can provide for nature, climate, and people. In addition, the results can be used to inform adaptive management and shared with the wider restoration community to improve effectiveness of future restoration actions.
How do we monitor?
The Endangered Landscapes & Seascapes Programme has developed a bespoke and rigorous monitoring framework, including monitoring indicators, which is being applied in all Restoration Landscapes and Seascapes.
Each Restoration Landscape and Seascape funded by the Endangered Landscapes & Seascapes Programme includes at least one experimental component that will generate new evidence of how to effectively restore species, habitats or natural processes. These trials provide projects with an opportunity to cost-effectively ‘learn while doing’ by testing the outcomes of one or more of the actions that they are undertaking. Examples of questions being addressed by restoration trials include:
- What is the effect of introducing natural grazing on invertebrate and plant communities and the fire resilience of the habitat in the Greater Côa Valley, Portugal?
- Which of two different types of communication campaigns is most effective at changing people’s environmental attitudes and behaviours in the Romanian Carpathian Mountains?
- What is the response of invertebrates, particularly beetles that depend on deadwood, to three different methods of deadwood creation in the Cairngorms, Scotland?
Advancing and Applying Knowledge Projects
Restoring degraded landscapes presents complex ecological, social and economic challenges for conservationists, communities and policymakers alike and there remains much that we still do not know. The ELSP is in a unique position to draw on the expertise, experience, networks and data of partner organisations across the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and Endangered Landscapes & Seascapes Programme networks to fill some of these knowledge gaps. The Programme’s Advancing and Applying Knowledge grants support a range of projects which are developing new knowledge, tools and guidance to enable practitioners to improve our understanding and overcome some of the barriers to landscape-scale restoration.
Monitoring changes in biodiversity over the temporal and spatial scales relevant to landscape restoration are time- and resource-intensive. Low-cost, scalable, and easily replicated monitoring approaches could significantly improve the ability of projects to collect repeated and accurate long-term data. One such approach is acoustic monitoring, which employs automated acoustic recorders to collect large amounts of data on a wide range of vocalising taxa simultaneously across sites. However, the processing and analysis of acoustic data can be challenging, especially regarding the development of machine-learning classifiers to produce species-level occurrence data. The ELSP is funding an Advancing and Applying Knowledge project, led by the British Trust for Ornithology, to improve practitioners’ ability to automatically identify species from their acoustic recordings, which will enable efficient monitoring of changes in biodiversity over time. The work focuses on the automated acoustic identification of bats, and target species of birds, bush-crickets, and small mammals across Europe, to ultimately improve our understanding of their responses to restoration interventions.