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.
Our 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.
The 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!
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.
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.
We 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.