Lake Connectivity, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Workshop in the Broads

We are inviting any interested Broads stakeholder to take part to our workshop on Lake Connectivity, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in the Broads, England.

  • Thursday January 7th 2016 at the Broads Authority head quarters, from 11:30.

At this occasion, we would like to share the findings of our Lake BESS research project and we will have a special focus on the Broads. We are keen to share our work with local stakeholders working on and around lakes in the area so our research can be useful to anyone concerned.

Please get in touch for further details and to register – go to the bottom of this page and send us a message or ambroise.baker [at]

oulton Broad_aerial

Aerial phtograph of Oulton broad by Mike Page

Workshop and Semiar about Upper Lough Erne’s satellite lakes

Following the previous post, this is just to let you know that our trip to Northern Ireland was very successful. It gave us a chance to discuss our research results with many partners, stakeholders and members of the public. The interest we met makes us hope that our research will find direct applications on the ground.

We would like to thank the many people who made this trip possible at the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Waterways Ireland, the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency and Queen’s University Belfast.

Workshop Announcement: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Upper Lough Erne’s satellite lakes

We are organising two events in Northern Ireland to share our results with local stakeholders.

  • A workshop Tuesday November 24th 2015, from 6:45pm at Waterway Ireland HQ,  Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.
  • A lunch time seminar Wednesday November 25th 2015, 12.30 – 13.30, NIEA HQ,  Belfast.

For both events there will be a presentation of our results and plenty of time for Q&As and discussion.

We would like to share our research findings with local stakeholders working on and around Upper Lough Erne’s satellite lakes so our research can be useful to those most concerned.

Please let us know if you would like to come by email: ambroise.baker [ at] or with a message at the bottom of this page; and do not hesitate to forward this invitation to anyone you think could be interested.


Fermanagh is the happiest place in the UK!

The BBC reported today that Fermanagh is the happiest place in the UK according to a recent survey by the ONS. Is there a link with the exceptional freshwater biodiversity levels we found during our work in the Upper Lough Erne region, part of Co. Fermanagh? Our Lake BESS work is only a preliminary step towards answering such fundamental question: a whole new research agenda lies ahead of us to better understand the value of nature and ecosystems in what is often referred to as coupled human-environment systems.


Lake BESS preliminary results presented in Liverpool

Here is a short summary of the talk we gave yesterday, at the Aquatic biodiversity and ecosystems conference held at the University of Liverpool, where we asked the question: Does connectivity between lakes enhance biodiversity resilience to eutrophication in the Upper Lough Erne area and in The Broads? A talk based on the same research was delivered in Baltimore, USA for the 100th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America – see this post.

methods in the fieldOur data was a compilation of lake surveys in both lake districts and for two time periods: the 1980 and recent time (thanks you to all our partners who were willing to share their data, by the way!). Each lake survey comprises of:

  • Extensive botanical work, recording aquatic plants from the open water and the marginal zone, and
  • Collecting water samples that are later analysed in the lab for phytoplankton abundance, concentration of nutrients such as phosphorus and water chemistry in general.

Our data shows that nutrient pollution drives ecosystem functioning in both regions and during both time periods. This reminds us on the importance of good policies to protect freshwaters while maintaining thriving agriculture.

phtoplanktonThe situation with biodiversity is a bit different as it appears to be influenced both by the local conditions (lake size and shape, nutrients status) and landscape-wide connectivity. One main difference between the Upper Lough Erne lakes and the Broads is that flood connectivity in the Upper lough Erne is a major factor structuring in the aquatic plant communities there. Does this induce greater resilience? remains a pending question we are working on.

All these results are being written up into a scientific article, so please get in touch if you’d like to discuss or report them!

Sobering thoughts from Baltimore, 100th annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America

The 100th ESA annual meeting was a great experience! It was an opportunity to present our work, of course, but what I really enjoyed was the breadth and depth. The breadth of ecological topics represented was exceptional – speak about biodiversity!- and the depth of the talks and of the understanding within each subfield was phenomenal.

I would like to highlight three researchers and their talks. There were many other remarkable ones but these actually tie well together in what I would call a list obstacles for our societies to deal effectively with the biodiversity crisis and with ecological issues in general.

P1030421Stephen Jackson from the University of Arizona, USA, presented five major challenges for ecology. Among those, three could be labelled as governance challenges within ecological research – whether within academic institutions or in the way academics interacts with decision makers and land managers.

Two others were more directly related to our science. Stephen notably put an emphasis on the difficulties related to defining nature in a context of ever-changing conditions – and in a context of omnipresent human pressure.

This last point was further developed by Jens-Christian Svenning from Aarhus University, Denmark. It was divided into three categories: disequilibrium dynamics, novel ecosystems and trophic cascade. These three ecological phenomena remind us how much ecosystem function in a complex way. As a result of this complexity, ecosystems have futures that are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to predict.

Jens-Christian presented several compelling examples to illustrate his talk and I would refer anyone interested to his publication list.

Finally, Shannon Hagerman, from the University of British Columbia, Canada, provided a wider framework explaining the origin of these institutional and ecological challenges.

Shannon’s work focusses on the values underlying expert opinion in biodiversity science and claims that today’s novel impact created by human activities not only threatens biodiversity in a direct way (as we all understand it) but it also deeply questions the values that have hitherto guided conservation actions.

It can be postulated that this crisis of values within the field of conservation at large creates obstacles for us to deal effectively with the biodiversity crisis itself and with ecological issues in general.

This is a very simplified synthesis of these three talks, that certainly does not do them justice, and the opinions expressed are mine. Ambroise, Sheffield, UK, August 27th 2015

Workshop on Biodiveristy and Ecosystem Services Resilience

The BESS resilience workshop on June 18th and 19th was a great success with over twenty attendees, mostly BESS researchers but also JNCC and Welsh government representatives.


We also had two special guests, Volker Grimm and Hanna Weise from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Germany, who presented fascinating background information about ecosystem resilience. Volker was a pioneer in trying to understand how the notion of resilience can be applied in ecology and his 1997 seminal paper is worthwhile a read.

The first day’s discussions were focussed on defining resilience, while in the second day we explored the multiple ways that can be used to measure ecosystem resilience.

It was very enlightening to hear different researchers from different BESS projects explain how ecosystem resilience was relevant to their work. The diversity of opinion was absolutely overwhelming! To such an extent that after two days of lively discussion it became very difficult to produce a short summary or a take-home message.

There was however two important points most attendees agreed upon:

  • Resilience is a useful notion for their work
  • It will be worth pursuing our quest to understand ecosystem resilience after the meeting – and we are already getting organise to do so.

Lake BESS to present results: 100th Ecological Society of America annual meeting, Baltimore, USA

Lake BESS is looking forward to going to the 100th Ecological Society of America (ESA) annual meeting in Baltimore! We have a talk scheduled Friday August 14th 2015 during the session “COS 142: Habitat Structure, Fragmentation, Connectivity”.logo

This is a very exciting opportunity to present our work asking the question: Does connectivity increase resilience of biodiversity against eutrophication in networks of shallow lakes? Our talk will be the only one focusing on freshwater in an collection of oral papers otherwise dedicated to ecological connectivity.

We will be using aquatic plant surveys conducted between 1983 and 2014 in our two study areas: The Broads, England, UK, and the Upper Lough Erne area, Northern Ireland, UK, and we will identify the relative importance of:

  • connectivity between lakes,
  • local water chemistry
  • lake morphology
  • and other factors

to explain the aquatic vegetation patters in the two lake districts during two time periods.

The comprehensive programme of the conference is available here online program and our abstract can be read there.

Norfolk Pond Project

This post highlights another project Carl Sayer, Lake BESS’s principal investigator, is involved with: The Norfolk Pond Project. Ponds sustain a major share of freshwater diversity yet they have been subjected to near-systematic destruction, pollution or abandonment since WWII.

After years of neglect by conservation and research compared to other habitats, ponds are finally being incorporated into UK aquatic conservation approaches and the Norfolk Pond Project is an excellent example:

“Norfolk holds more ponds than any other English county with an estimated 23,000 ponds present. Most of these ponds are located in farmland, and have their origins as marl or clay pits and in some cases livestock-watering ponds dug in the 17th to 19th centuries. “

Sayers_Black_Pit1_June_2013“In addition the Brecks, west Norfolk and sites north of Norwich are home to some of the most amazingly diverse ancient ponds in the UK, pingos – ponds that occupy ice depressions formed during the last great ice age. A great place to see pingos is at Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s nature reserve, Thompson Common.”

“The Norfolk Ponds Project aims to reverse the decline of Norfolk’s ponds so that agricultural landscapes contain a mosaic of clean water ponds with fewer ponds overgrown by trees and bushes.” Read the leaflet for more information on this exciting new project!

Thanks to Carl for providing all the material for this post.

Understanding resilience, thresholds and tipping points: BESS Workshop, June 18-19, London

In a collaboration with Adrian Newton’s team in Bournemouth (BESS project on “Dynamics and Thresholds of Ecosystem Services in Wooded Landscapes”), Lake BESS is co-organising a BESS-funded workshop on resilience to take place June 18-19 in London.

There is more information about the workshop and how BESS people can take part here.

This will be a unique occasion to develop ideas around resilience, biodiversity and ecosystem services and a good chance to network with like-minded people who think resilience is an important notion to better communicate our science.