Workshop in the Broads

Lake BESS research on the importance of water connectivity for healthy shallow lakes in the Upper Lough Erne, Northern Ireland and in the Broads, England, was presented to the Broads stakeholders yesterday. The event hosted by the Broads Authority.

This was an opportunity to discuss how our research will be translated into actions in the Broads where multiple major restoration projects are happening.

Carl Sayer gave an inspirational talk comparing the lake ecology and aquatic vegetation of the Upper Lough Erne region and The Broads.

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Workshop and Seminar 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.

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.

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.

Sampling dormant bryozoan from lake mud! – a field trip around the Broads 12th-15th March 2015

The Lake BESS team has just spent four full days on the water to collect bryozoans statoblasts from 14 different Norfolk broads. You will find more information about our work on bryozoans in this previous post.

The aim of this sampling is to gather evidence regarding how connectivity between lakes influences the movement of aquatic biodiversity, in particular bryozoan population genetics.

We were extremely privileged to be shown around by Geoff Philips, who greatly facilitated this field work with his knowledge of the area and of the people managing The Broads – at the Broads Authority, the Norfolk Wildlife trust, etc.

Last summer, we collected similar samples from the Upper Lough Erne region, Northern Ireland. With this trip in the Broads we completed the sampling of bryozoans for our project. We used an Ekman grab from our boat to retrieve lake surface sediment, i.e. oozy mud.

We collected bags and bags of oozy mud, from which we are isolating the tiny bryozoans statoblast (less a 1 mm!), from which DNA will be extracted.

But collecting the mud is only the first step of the sampling. Back on the shore, our bryozoans expert Beth screened the sediments through a microscope to pick out individuals statoblasts (the dormant phase of bryozoans measuring less than 1 mm in diameter). These individual statoblasts are going to be sent off for their DNA to be extracted.

We are expecting to find out that isolated broads have bryozoans population with more distinct genetics than those from broads connected to the river systems. But we are really not sure how the gene flow within the Broads will compare with that experienced within the Upper Lough Erne region, so we are looking forward to get our results – and we are hope to be surprised!

Many thanks for the many people who helped making this sampling possible!

Are there any advantages to lake eutrophication? – A carbon sink perspective.

The eutrophication (or excessive enrichment by nutrients as a result of human activities) of lowland lakes is a widespread problem globally but is particularly serious in densely populated areas of Europe and North America.

While the negative effects of nutrient enrichment are considerable in term of biodiversity loss and alterations in ecosystem functioning, one possible positive aspect is the increased rate of organic carbon burial. This means that regional carbon budgets may benefit from eutrophication, leading to a positive effect on climate regulation.

The possible climate regulating role of lakes as carbon sinks is only now being evaluated but to date there has been limited consideration of change in organic carbon burial rates in response to eutrophication.

A recently published study by Helen Bennion, one of the Lake BESS team, with John Anderson (Loughborough University) and Andy Lotter (Utrecht University) has revealed that the accumulation rates of organic carbon in many European lakes have increased by at least four to five fold over the last 100-150 years (Anderson et al., 2014).

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Pollution with an excess of nutrients coming from human activities led to increased carbon sequestration rates in European lakes during the 20th century. Photo by Ben Goldsmith.

This piece of research compiled data from about 90 European lakes and found background estimates of carbon burial ~ 5–10 g C m-2 yr–1 compared with an average rate of around 60 g C m-2 yr–1 for lakes subject to eutrophication in recent decades.

They show that the organic carbon burial rates for European eutrophic lakes reflect phosphorus availability – a pollutant coming for example from domestic waste waters and farming – and are considerably higher than previously thought. This has clear implications for our current estimates of regional carbon budgets and for the role lakes may play.

The authors suggest that enhanced organic carbon burial by lakes is one positive side-effect of the otherwise negative impact of the anthropogenic disruption of nutrient cycles: eutrophic lakes are sequestering more organic carbon than at any other time in their history.

Within the Lake BESS project, changes in organic carbon burial rates will be calculated for the study sites in the two lake regions to determine the role of these lakes as carbon sinks and hence in providing the important ecosystem service of climate regulation.

Reference: [include link]

Anderson N.J., Bennion H. & Lotter A.F. (2014) Lake eutrophication and its implications for organic carbon sequestration in Europe. Global Change Biology 20, 2741–2751. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12584

Back from the field!

We’re just back from our very successful field work around the Upper Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. We managed to survey nearly 20 satellite loughs for aquatic plants, water chemistry and bryozoans (see this previous post).

Corracoach Lough

Access to some of the lough was sometimes tough but always rewarding. Photography by Helen Bennion.

The help we received from volunteers and project partners was absolutely tremendous! Over the two week we have been a dozen of us actively involved in this research campaign. We’d particularly like to thank Hannah, Robert, Tim and Stephen for joining our team at this occasion and also all the land owners who were kind enough to grant us access to the lakes we had targeted.

Battling through reed beds to get onto some of the lough with our boats was one of the striking aspects of this field work! But it was worth the effort and the diversity of aquatic plant observed over the two week is very impressive. For instance we have sightings for at least ten different Potamogeton species (see this previous post), an extremely good score!

We’ll post more picture and reports from this field work in the coming weeks.

P. perfoliatus

Potamogeton perfoliatus (Photograph by Ben Goldsmith)

Pondweeds

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Pondweeds

The islands of Britain and Ireland have over 40 species or hybrids of pondweeds (genus Potamogeton). This diversity in pondweed is one of the highest in Europe with most European species being represented. Unfortunately local diversity and abundance of pondweeds have declined over the 20th Century, as a result of habitat destruction and pollution. The Upper Lough Erne region and The Broads are two areas of importance for the conservation of pondweed – but “what can we learn from these strongholds?” and “what measure could enhance their recovery nationally?” are questions we are trying to address part of the Lake BESS project. (Photo by Ambroise Baker: P. polygonifolius in full bloom).

A short film about the management of biodiversity and water in the Broads.

Video

“In this short film I asked some of the people I work with about the management of biodiversity and water in Broadland. Their thoughts are set alongside some of the most beautiful photos of wildlife and wetland landscapes. We hope you enjoy it” Andrea Kelly Senior Ecologist at the Broads Authority

LakeBESS start-up

Lakes are inspirational places for people enjoying outdoor activities and they are cherished by local communities and holiday-makers alike. However, lake ecosystems are threatened by environmental change and loss of biodiversity that can have cascading and catastrophic effects.

The LakeBESS project, run from the Environmental Change Research Centre (ECRC) at UCL, is focussed on two lake districts, the Broads in East Anglia and the Upper Lough Erne district in Northern Ireland.

debarcadaireWe are looking into how biodiversity regulates ecological balance within lakes and would like to assess the consequences of biodiversity loss for the provision of ecosystem services. Ecosystem services from lakes are extremely diverse: recreation, tourism, water purification, flood prevention, provision of fish for anglers and fisheries and other supporting services such as carbon storage for climate mitigation.

Because of this variety, changes in lake ecological functioning may affect the different services in different ways, rendering best practices for restoration and management difficult to establish.

One aspect we are particularly interested to develop in LakeBESS is the importance of ecological connectivity between lakes for their biodiversity. Connectivity may be a major factor determining lake ecosystem resilience because it counter-balances the negative effect of local extinction by increasing species re-colonisation.

Another aspect of interest is the consequences of biological invasions by organisms such as zebra mussel and Canadian pondweed.

We have just started this project as part of the Biodiveristy, Ecosystem Services and Sustainablility (BESS) research programme funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Our team is composed of Carl Sayer, Helen Bennion, Jorge Salgado and Ambroise Baker at UCL, Tom Davidson at the University of Aarhus (Denmark), Beth Okamura at the Natural History Museum and Nigel Willby at Stirling University. We are looking forward to a field campaign this summer and to presenting the result of our work to the numerous stakeholders in both lake districts.

We also would love to hear your take on how changes in lakes, or in a particular lake, can affect people’s lives.