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Environmental Change Network
Monitoring to guide and prioritize conservation


What is an Environmental Change Network?

An ECN is an integrated network of long-term environmental monitoring stations that gather information using standardized protocols.

Goals and Objectives

The goal of the LCC Environmental Change Network is to guide and prioritize conservation activities that benefit biodiversity while conserving ecosystems and ecosystem services.

The specific LCC Environmental Change Network objectives include (modified from UK Environmental Change Network)

  • Establish and maintain a network of sites within the LCC boundaries to obtain comparable long-term datasets by monitoring a range of common variables of major environmental importance.
  • Provide for the integration and analysis of these data, to identify environmental changes and improve understanding of the causes of change.
  • Distinguish short-term fluctuations from long-term trends, and predict future changes.
  • Establish and maintain a network of sites that encourages and enables short-term directed research projects to inform specific conservation actions or decisions, likely at scales smaller than the entire LCC region.
  • Develop and disseminate natural resource management recommendations to public and private interests.

What about similar efforts?

The California ECN will cooperate with and take advantage of similar efforts that are currently ongoing or planned.The existing or planned networks however either do not overlap with the CA LCC geography or are aimed at much larger or smaller scales - see below. Regardless, the CA ENC will work to integrate with these existing efforts.

The Terrestrial Wetland Global Change Research Network was established in 2008, with a geographic focus corresponding to the range of the wood frog (Rana sylvatica) in the United States and Canada. By only focusing on the range of the wood frog, TWGCRN does not cover California.

The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is a monitoring program with similar goals but at the scale of the entire United States, with only one site proposed for California.

Our model

The CA ECN is using the UK Environmental Change Network as a model. The UK ECN has already published information on the evidence of climate change using ECN data as well as an overall assessment of the program.

Progress and Next Steps

The bulk of our progress to date has been the development of predictive maps of climate and bird species occurrence as a first step toward establishing a framework for choosing where to monitor. We will take these maps and overlay field stations, reserves, etc. in order to assess if existing infrastructure covers the spectrum of prioritized monitoring locations.

We are currently writing a report that will make specific recommendations on what and where to monitor. The report will use the maps described above, published literature, and a survey of expert opinion.

Our goal for 2011 is to work with LCC partners to choose a small set of core variables that all network sites will be expected to monitor, develop protocols for those variables (if necessary), estimate the costs of monitoring those core variables, and establish data management system.

Why establish an Environmental Change Network?

The scale and pace of anthropogenic pressures on natural systems requires ecological monitoring to detect and attribute the effects of environmental change on biodiversity and ecosystem services to help conserve them. Hence, long-term monitoring is essential for developing sound, timely, and adaptive conservation actions in the face of unprecedented environmental change. Additionally, the uncertainty of predicting impacts of environmental change indicates we cannot rely on models alone, but must invest in ecological monitoring programs. The strength of the ECN is that it will be multidisciplinary, with each of its sites collecting information on many of the same key variables, thereby enabling analyses of relationships among variables and across sites to prescribe the most effective and efficient conservation activities.