Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Ecosystem services in practice

If you are visiting this page as a result of publicity associated with my recent article in British Wildlife*, please see my posts for 26 July and 19 April for some background to the project.  Here are a couple of other examples from the article:

Food production and water quality

Sediment concentrations in stream water during periods of heavy rain increase with distance down the catchment with increasing arable influence, lowest concentrations being present at the head of the catchment in the ancient semi-natural woodland, with only a small increase as the stream passes through pasture.  This is consistent with our previous studies comparing the influence of different land cover types on water quality - production of food from arable land has a greater impact on water quality (and ecology and flow) than does food production from pasture. See the post for 26 July for the role of wildlife in addressing this issue.  At base flow in summer, soluble reactive phosphorus concentrations are also low in the upper part of the catchment but increase considerably where the stream passes rural houses because of the influence of septic tanks.  The phosphorus concentration is lower at the base of the catchment as dilution and biological activity improve water quality lower down the stream.

Turbidity (reflecting sediment concentrations) during winter rain, and soluble reactive phosphorus during base flow in summer, at six sampling points along the School Farm stream.

Non-crop habitats as sources of crop pest predators

Carabid beetles captured using emergence traps in wood edge and hedge
Non-crop habitats may benefit food production by producing insects that pollinate crops or control crop pests.  Use of conventional pitfall traps has shown that woodland edges support higher numbers of carabid  (important crop pest predators) than hedges do.  We recently used emergence traps to determine whether these two habitats are actually producing these insects through the emergence of adult beetles from the soil and found this to be the case.  We also found that the species composition of the beetle communities in the two habitats was different.  We know from previous research that carabid beetles reduce aphid numbers at least 80 metres into adjacent crops, so both woodland and hedge habitats are therefore contributing to crop pest control in slightly different ways.

Further examples of interactions between wildlife and food production can be found in the original article and others will appear on this blog in due course.

*Stoate, C. 2014.  Wildlife has its uses – managing farmland for ecosystem services. British Wildlife 25: 154-160