Ecological networks in real landscapes
Symposium organised by:
Nicholas Macgregor, Natural England, London, UK
Andy Wharton, Natural England, Bristol, UK
Humphrey Crick, Natural England, Cambridge, UK
This symposium will explore some of the issues around designing and implementing coherent and resilient ecological networks in practice in different landscapes. It will include discussion of how to take into consideration the full range of relevant ecological and human factors.
The theme of restoring or re-creating coherent and resilient ecological networks is prominent in current conservation policy in Europe at EU and national level. It is an important and growing aspect of much current conservation effort, particularly large-scale ecological restoration projects. Ecological networks are also recognised as critical in ensuring multiple benefits for nature, landscape and people.
This has been influenced by several decades of active research and debate on a range of issues including landscape fragmentation; climate change; the role of large-scale approaches in delivering effective adaptation; the role of agri-environment schemes; and the drive to embed the ecosystem approach.
Recent syntheses have reviewed the theory (often based on metapopulation dynamics), collated current evidence and put forward general principles for establishing coherent networks. However, there is a danger that policy is moving ahead of the science. While the general principles are known and are becoming established in conservation thinking, there are still significant gaps in our knowledge. As a result, there is still a lack of specific practical guidelines for applying these principles in real landscapes, and a need for better information about the approaches should be taken according to the ecological and human aspects of a particular landscape and its potential to provide different ecosystem services.
This symposium will bring together scientists, practitioners and policy-makers, from both the natural and social sciences, to explore the unanswered questions about how ecological networks should be designed and implemented and the range of factors – both ecological and social – that should be considered.
Briefing notes or papers summarising the information collated during the symposium will be produced for conservation practitioners and policy-makers, to inform their work on both the science and practice of establishing ecological networks. The findings can be communicated widely through the partnerships that Natural England has with other organisations in the conservation sector. A paper summarising themes and conclusions of the symposium will be written for submission to a peer-reviewed journal to share findings with the research community and make them aware of the issues of greatest relevance to conservation policy and practice.