Collaboration with Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), Cranfield University, Forest Research and National Trust.
We aim to identify at both a mechanistic and applied scale how biodiversity, complexity and resilience can be secured through ecosystem restoration establishing grasslands and woodlands on intensive agricultural land or mineral extraction sites. This is set in the context of HMG’s 25 Year Environment Plan, The Bonn Challenge, the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, and the intention to achieve “Net Gain” in future development and planning proposals. Our proposal will focus on terrestrial systems to understand how interventions help within site restoration, while considering proximity to long established sites to elucidate the importance of landscape factors during the development of complex communities. Our starting points will be intensive agricultural production or mineral extraction sites, and our restoration sites those in transition to chalk grassland or forest/woodland.
To implement our objectives, we will principally be utilising a “natural experiment”, whereby we will take advantage of local variation in existing network of sites between sites to retro-fit an experimental design (Watts et al, 2016). This has huge practical advantages for restoration studies where sites may take decades to establish allowing us to substitute, space for time in our site selection. This will give us the potential to investigate mature systems providing mechanistic insights into how restoration promotes community stability and resilience. This space for time approach also allows us to investigate “transition systems” to determine the nature of changes from degraded to functional systems, and the mechanisms underlying these processes. We shall, however, be investigating key interventions at a limited number of sites to see if we can enhance rates of transition of key variables. Whilst we have existing experiments, we can use from the land holdings and work already being carried out by members of the Consortium, to maximise the scope and value of our study we are trying to gain new potential Partner Organisations.