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Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

Guidelines for landscape-scale, long-term projects

Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring: Guidelines for landscape-scale, long-term projects

Written by Peter Stroh and Francine Hughes
Animal & Environment Research Group Department of Life Sciences Anglia Ruskin University Cambridge, UK

Steering Group members: Alan Bowley, Natural England Chris Gerrard, Wildlife Trust Paul Jose, Huntingdonshire District Council Owen Mountford, NERC-CEH, Wallingford Lorna Parker, Wildlife Trust Lesley Saint, Environment Agency Stuart Warrington, National Trust

November 2010

This publication has been funded by the Esme Fairbairn Foundation

Section 1: Introduction to landscape-scale projects Section 2: Why monitor? Section 3: What should be monitored? Section 4: Monitoring physical processes 4.1 4.2 Understanding hydrology Monitoring activities 4.2.1 Monitoring rainfall 4.2.2 Monitoring water levels 4.2.3 Monitoring soil moisture 4.2.4 Monitoring soil nutrients 4.2.5 Monitoring soil function Section 5: Monitoring habitat mosaics 5.1 Case study: Monitoring landscape-scale habitat mosaics at the Wicken Fen Vision 5.1.1 Aerial photography 5.1.2 Interpretation of FCIR images 5.1.3 Characterising the mosaic Section 6: What species should we monitor? 6.1 Monitoring terrestrial vegetation communities 6.1.1 Understanding wetland vegetation 6.1.2 Choosing monitoring locations 6.1.3 Monitoring techniques 6.2 6.3 Monitoring aquatic habitats Monitoring species as indicators of landscape change 6.3.1 Species linked to environmental quality 6.3.2 Flagship species 6.3.3 Landscape species/assemblages 6.3.4 Species indicative of landscape connectivity 7 9 11 12 12 12 12 12 12 15 15 16 16 16 16 16 19 19 19 19 19 20 20 20 21 21 21 9.2 Section 7: Can we monitor ecosystem services? 7.1 7.2 7.3 What are ecosystem services? Direct measurements of ecosystem services Indirect measurements of ecosystem services 25 25 26 26 27 27 29 31 31 31 31 32 32 32 35 37 39 39 39 40 42 Section 8: Monitoring local support and concerns 8.1 8.2 Engaging with local people Measuring changing attitudes to landscape-scale projects

Section 9: Who should undertake monitoring and how often? 9.1 Deciding who should monitor 9.1.1 Professionals/specialists 9.1.2 Professionals and volunteers 9.1.3 Volunteers 9.1.4 School groups/student projects Frequency and timing of monitoring

Section 10: Funding monitoring Section 11: Project evaluation Section 12: Beyond the project 12.1 Connecting with other landscape-scale projects 12.2 Dissemination of monitoring data References linked to superscript numbers in each section Acknowledgements

Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

Konik ponies at the Wicken Vision project are part of of an extensive, free-roaming grazing system

Section 1: Introduction to landscape-scale projects

This document is aimed at providing information on long-term monitoring protocols for individuals and organisations involved in the restoration or creation of wetland habitat over a landscape-scale. Landscape-scale is a relatively recent concept and difficult to define, as each organism living within a landscape has a different interpretation of landscape extent. Thus, a ground beetle and a marsh harrier will view the extent of their environment at very different spatial scales, so it follows that there can be no absolute size for a landscapescale project. Ultimately, it is up to the individual land manager to define landscape in an appropriate manner relevant to the project area. However, for the purposes of this document, we felt that a definition of the term would be of practical use, and so have chosen to loosely characterise landscape-scale as an area that: contains (or has the potential to contain) a heterogeneous land area composed of a dynamic mosaic of interacting ecosystems1,2 incorporates the functions and processes necessary to restore and maintain a dynamic and heterogeneous land area encompasses a landholding of >1 km2 Implicit in this definition of landscape scale is the expectation that project outcomes are somewhat open-ended, not rigidly defined in terms of particular species numbers or of the location and extent of specific vegetation types. Instead, the development of habitats and recruitment of species is at least partially determined through natural processes such as seed dispersal, recruitment from the seed bank and vegetation succession, combined with land management practices such as extensive conservation grazing and hydrological manipulation. Such projects are conceived of over very long periods of time and monitoring needs to be set up so that it can keep track of change over many decades. We use the more widely understood term monitoring throughout this document to mean tracking change through time although we appreciate that in many, more specialised, documents the term surveillance is used for this purpose. The guidance in this report has been considerably influenced by the outcomes of monitoring protocols designed by the authors and applied at two landscape-scale wetland restoration initiatives within Cambridgeshire, UK; The Great Fen Project and the Wicken Fen Vision The underlying philosophy at both project sites is to restore and create wetland habitats with a minimum of anthropogenic intervention, although much of the monitoring guidance contained in this document can be applied to projects which do not undertake this more holistic approach to restoration.
Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring 7

Restoration of wetland habitats at Adventurers Fen (part of Wicken Fen) in Cambridgeshire has used prescriptive restoration techniques to dig a mere and create aquatic habitats. It has also used the natural processes of vegetation regeneration from seedbanks and extensive grazing by free-roaming herd animals. This example combines both the first and second type of restoration approaches described in this section.

Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

Section 2: Why monitor?

Long-term monitoring plays an essential role in assessing the ecological status and function of a project and in documenting change through time. When a project is focussed on the restoration of a particular species or habitat, monitoring can provide evidence of the impact that land management decisions have had on the target species or habitat and on a range of environmental variables, for example, hydrological variables. If a project has the much broader aims of promoting biophysical processes in the landscape and of restoring connectivity between parts of the landscape in order to generally increase biological diversity, there is likely to be less certainty about the restoration outcomes. Under such a scenario, monitoring becomes crucial in helping to understand where and why habitats form and how they evolve over time and which species are using the landscape either permanently or temporarily. This approach is increasingly being adopted by landscape-scale projects which tend to have a more open-ended view of project outcomes1. The reasons for monitoring a restoration project are to some extent linked to the projects philosophy. Project philosophies are quite varied but can perhaps be divided into three main types1. 1. Where restoration projects tend towards a very prescriptive approach, restoration activities and ongoing management are closely aligned to well-defined restoration targets in planned locations (for example, aimed at recovery of a species). In this type of project, monitoring of the target species or habitat readily allows a project manager to know if targets are being met and management can then be adapted to meet targets. 2. Other projects have target species or habitats but use a restoration approach that relies more on natural processes, such as river floods, to create the required environmental conditions2. In this case the link between processes and target species or habitats may be well understood but exactly where these may be restored within the landscape is less easy to predict. In this type of project, monitoring of target species and habitats can tell a project manager if appropriate processes are being used to produce the specified range of species and habitats. Monitoring can thus confirm if the link between processes and species or habitat has been correctly understood and management can be adapted as necessary to meet targets. 3. On the other hand restoration may focus on natural processes, with expectations more open-ended in terms of the habitats that might form or the species likely to use the restoration area. This approach to restoration is more experimental and less target-driven and tends to occur on highly degraded land (such as former intensively farmed arable land) which is unlikely to support historical species assemblages. The monitoring task in open-ended projects is complex as there are not welldefined targets against which to monitor. Monitoring itself also becomes more open-ended and focused on tracking patterns of change through time. With no set targets against which to monitor, adaptive management cannot take place and there is a greater element of documenting what happens and accepting what comes over many decades. In any kind of restoration project monitoring has three broad uses: 1. It describes the changes taking place? 2. It helps to understand the causes of change? 3. It helps to quantify the benefits of restoration? DESCRIPTION FUNCTION BENEFIT

The first two of these are very useful for project managers who need to make decisions about aspects of habitat management and for the many stakeholders who will want to know what is happening at the site and what impacts restoration might have on them. The third is particularly useful in advocacy and for promoting the range of benefits that ecological restoration can bring to a wide range of people.

Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring


Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

Section 3: What should be monitored?

Decisions on what to monitor at the beginning of a project, especially when faced with large areas of land, can be overwhelming. In many instances, decision-making will be led or influenced by internal policies from within the organisation managing the project or by external factors. These may include (a) specified targets for some habitats or species, (b) the financial and human resources available for monitoring activities, and/or (c) the terms & conditions of funding bodies. Whatever the constraints may be, long-term monitoring should be viewed as an essential extension to land purchase and management. Monitoring schemes should be carefully planned and designed so that methods are standardised, inexpensive, easily repeated and robust.1 An expensive baseline survey to set up the monitoring can be acceptable if repeat surveys are inexpensive. Landscape-scale projects should prioritize monitoring activities that reflect its attributes of large size, habitat heterogeneity and ecosystem function. Wetlands represent a unique and dynamic balance between hydrology, topography and wildlife. If project managers are to have a critical understanding of why there are fluctuations in species presence, abundance (and absence) over time, monitoring must be targeted at underlying physical processes as well as biological diversity. In this way, monitoring can also be linked to well-informed management decisions. Wetland ecosystems provide many ecological services as a result of the way they function and therefore provide a wide range of benefits for wildlife and people2. The monitoring of such ecosystem services should complement the monitoring of biotic and abiotic wetland components and will add tangible financial and social value to a project. Appreciation of the value of wetlands created across large areas of land is intrinsically linked to the support of local communities. Monitoring the levels of support for a project by local people allows a project manager to respond to local concerns when they arise. It may also be relevant to monitor the effects of landscape change on cultural or socio-economic aspects of the landscape since these are intrinsically linked to ecological and environmental change. Methods for doing this are not described in this document but one example is the value of land. Monitoring an open-ended landscape-scale project could therefore encompass (Figure 1): 1. The physical processes that help to shape a wetland 2. The mosaic of habitats across the wetland landscape 3. The wildlife that uses the wetland landscape 4. Ecosystem services provided by the wetland landscape 5. The views and concerns of local stakeholders associated with the changing landscape 6. Project policies and land management decisions which have the potential to impact on all of the above. Methods for monitoring the first five of these are described in Sections 4 to 8.

Figure 1: Components of wetland landscape monitoring

Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring


Section 4: Monitoring physical processes

The two most important physical components of a wetland are its water and its soils, both of which will determine the kind of wetland that develops on a restoration site.

4.1 Understanding hydrology

Wetlands need water but most wetlands vary quite significantly between seasons in terms of how much water they contain. Many wetlands are flooded in the winter but become drier and less extensive during summer months. Scientists often use the term hydroperiod to describe the amount, the seasonal timing, the depth and the duration of water present in the wetland. All of these factors will determine the kind of wetland ecosystem that develops on a restoration site. The hydroperiod is essentially a way of describing the hydrological character of the wetland. Wetlands receive water from rain, from ground water sources and from surface water sources (for example: river flooding, runoff from slopes or ditch systems). Water also leaves a wetland by some of these routes as well as by evaporation and by the emission of water vapour by plants (evapotranspiration). Hydrologists often talk about water budgets by which they mean the sum total of water inputs against all the water outputs of a wetland over a specified period of time (Figure 2). It is a way of calculating water availability.

Understanding how a wetland functions requires information about elements of the water budget and about the hydroperiod. However, not all hydrological factors are easy to measure. Often a combination of direct measurement of some inputs and outputs (eg rainfall or stream flows) can be combined with measurements of aspects of the wetlands hydroperiod to give a good picture of hydrological activity. The hydrological factors that are relatively straightforward to measure can thus be classified into two types of measurement activity: 1. Direct measurement of inputs and/or outputs Rainfall Water levels in water supply/removal channels 2. Measurement of wetland hydroperiod Depth and extent of water in the wetland during wet months Depth of the water table below the ground during dry months Soil moisture remaining in the soil above the water table when the water table is below the surface. Data gathered on wetland hydroperiods make a significant contribution to understanding why particular plants and animals occur

within a wetland landscape. Although some hydrological inputs cannot be altered (like rainfall) knowing that a wetland has, for example, received lower than average rainfall in a particular winter, can trigger decisions about managing other water inputs during the following spring and summer. Such measurements can make very practical contributions to a land managers hydrological toolkit.

4.2 Monitoring activities

4.2.1 Monitoring rainfall
There are many brands of automated rain gauge available to install. An automated weather station is very useful as it provides information on rainfall, wind speeds and air temperatures. The quantity of rainfall is an obvious water input to the wetland but other measurements made by a weather station allow the calculation of potential evapotranspiration by plants. It then becomes possible to graph rainfall against potential evapotranspiration to reveal in which months there may be a water deficit in the wetland (Figure 3). Monitoring rainfall is also very useful in helping to understand the relative importance of different water sources in providing water to a wetland and the kinds of impacts that rainfall events can have on water levels (Figure 4).

4.2.2 Monitoring water levels

Installation of dipwells (also sometimes called boreholes) allows measurement of both the height of flooding and the depth of the water table. It is relatively easy to construct and install a dipwell and the water levels inside it can be measured either manually or using an automated system. An automated system is more expensive but gives much more detailed information about water table movement and can more readily be related to rainfall data. In an ideal world a series of dipwells should be installed across a hydrological gradient from a drier to a wetter area. If a ditch system feeds the water table of a wetland then it is also useful to monitor the water levels in the ditch in order to know how effectively the

Figure 2: Hydrological inputs and outputs in a fenland restoration project


Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

Figure 3: More water is lost from evapotranspiration than gained from rainfall between March and September in this example, typical of the late 1990s, from Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire1.

Figure 4. This graph shows a fluctuating water table at the centre of a restored fenland field from July 2007 to March 2009 on the Wicken Fen Vision project area. The water table shows a rapid response to individual rainfall events however the seasonal variation is closely linked to management activities which let water onto the site over the winter and allows it to drain off the site through the summer.

Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring


A dipwell installed at Wicken Fen measures both above ground flood levels and below ground water table levels.

Inset, an automated stilling well and manually read gauge board installed at Great Fen to measure ditch water levels.


Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

ditch is providing water or removing water depending on the time of the year. Water levels have different impacts on different species, and need careful monitoring for seasonal fluctuations. For example, a gradual water level drawdown in spring/early summer is known to be valuable for some plants, wading birds and invertebrates, but a rapid rise in the water table at the wrong time of the year may be disastrous for all three. Choosing sites for hydrological monitoring

4.2.4 Monitoring soil nutrients

Many wetland restoration projects are on former farmland that is rich in Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) from the application of fertilizers. N and P are both very important to plant growth and will influence the plant communities that develop from a seed bank in a natural regeneration management regime. Once arable agriculture has ceased, N will tend to leach away rapidly

baseline values are known for N, P and K with subsequent tests being carried out at intervals of 510 years as values are unlikely to change rapidly. Soil analyses can be carried out by sending them to a laboratory for detailed analyses or by using inexpensive but less accurate field kits. Soil chemistry is very complex and it is important to understand the significance of different types of tests. In general, tests for Available P, Available N and Available K will tell a land manager most about the availability of these nutrients to plants.

In large-scale projects, it is difficult to decide where to locate hydrological equipment. Both hydrological considerations and practical considerations must be taken into account. Three rules of thumb can be used: 1. Choose sites that are typical of many parts of the project area but are also near to important water sources such as ditches or rivers. 2. Choose sites where additional information is also being collected (for example information about soils, or vegetation or water quality) because the more that is known about one site the better it will be understood. 3. Choose sites that are easy to get to so that the time taken to download data loggers or take manual measurements is minimized. Choosing equipment for hydrological monitoring Equipment should be robust and capable of operating in a wet environment! Many commercial sources of monitoring equipment are available but choose the simplest equipment that is capable of doing the job you want done. There are data loggers that can be put inside a dipwell and these will record the depth of water lying above them. In order to use these data you need to know the height of the ground surface next to each dipwell so a survey of ground elevation across the site is essential. Data loggers can be set to take measurements at any interval but measurements every 1 hour are commonly chosen. This gives 24 data points each day and allows a really good understanding of how the water table fluctuates in response to rainfall events or to changes in water inputs from other sources such as nearby ditches. Sometimes there will be a lag between the water input and the water level response and this tells the wetland manager how long it takes for water to move through the soil.

4.2.5 Monitoring soil function

In the early years of a restoration project it is interesting to know something about soil functions and whether or not restoration is increasing the rate of processes such as decomposition of organic matter. Soil biota contribute towards the sustainable functioning of all ecosystems by acting as the primary driving agents of nutrient cycling; regulating the dynamics of soil organic matter, soil carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emission; modifying soil physical structure and water regime; enhancing the amount and efficiency of nutrient acquisition by vegetation; and enhancing plant health. 3 One way of measuring changes in the levels of activity by soil biota is to use bait lamina strips which can measure both soil microbial and soil invertebrate activity in a very simple way. These inexpensive strips were initially designed for use in arable fields and can be put into the soil over 720 day periods to measure different levels of soil biotic activity4.

4.2.3 Monitoring soil moisture

Measuring soil moisture is not essential but can give useful insights into the residual moisture availability above the water table once the water table has retreated below ground during summer months. It is possible to obtain hand held soil moisture probes that read soil moisture % by volume in the surface layers of the soil. Over time these data can help a reserve manager to understand why different plant communities have developed in different places and contribute to a general understanding of habitat development. Soil moisture conditions also affect other species, for example, high levels of soil moisture usually make the ground soft which is a prerequisite for the successful breeding of wader chicks.

but P , on the other hand, gets taken up by the soil and bound to soil particles in such a way that much of it becomes unavailable to plants. It will tend to linger in the soil for several decades though it can be more rapidly released from organic soils than from mineral soils. The exact levels of both N and P once fertilization has ceased will largely be determined by the type of soil. As a rule of thumb, clay soils hold nutrients for much longer than soils that are more porous like silts and sands or than very organic soils like peat. This means that a reasonably detailed soil map2 can give a very good broad indication of the likely nutrient loading in the soils of a restoration area without the need to carry out nutrient analyses on a regular basis. However, it is a good idea to carry out soil analyses at the start of a project so that

Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring


Section 5: Monitoring habitat mosaics

In landscape-scale projects where natural physical and biological processes are allowed to determine the vegetation mosaic, it is useful to be able to characterise the mosaic as it changes through time. This information allows a project manager to relate the presence of vegetation types and abiotic factors such as open water extent, to the presence and population size of other species, and perhaps to find functional links between the two. Vegetation mosaics can be mapped by hand in more or less detail but accurate comparisons between years are difficult to make without the help of remote-sensing techniques. We describe a method for doing this through a case study. FCIR images consist of three wavebands; red, which represents near infrared reflectance; green, which represents red reflectance; and blue, which represents green reflectance (Figure 7 right). This format is particularly useful for visualising vegetation health and density as vegetation has a strong reflectance in the near infrared and appears as different intensities of red. that this provides. For each patch within each field, an area, perimeter and perimeter / area ratio can be calculated to measure the extent of habitat edge. Vegetation patterns over substantial areas using relatively little effort in comparison to ground-based, fine scale vegetation monitoring techniques. The detail of vegetation data appears to be sufficient to influence and inform some kinds of land management decisions such as choice of grazing densities. The data gathered by this method is likely to complement other monitoring activities being undertaken within the wetland as it allows additional mapping layers with information about other factors (for example soil depths) to be overlain. A second set of FCIR images will be collected in 2012 (five years following the first flight). At this point, it will be possible to examine changes that have occurred within the project area since 2007 and rigorously test the protocols discussed above and their usefulness. This kind of approach to monitoring is expensive and can be carried out at widely spaced intervals ( 5 years).

5.1.2 Interpretation of FCIR images

A quality-check (known as pre-processing) was performed on the images to remove defects, and a single image collated from the many aerial images taken over the project area. Within each field, vegetation boundaries were then selected by an image segmentation technique (see Figure 8 right) using the FCIR image and specialist GIS software. This procedure can define very complex boundaries, but works only on the values contained within the FCIR image, and does not involve any expert ecological input. The process is automated and so relatively objective, although parameters for the segmentation process need to be set in advance, which inevitably involves some subjective evaluation. Segments (or patches) were then ground-truthed by a professional botanist, with differences in vegetation structure and species within and between fields observed.

5.1 Case study: Monitoring landscape-scale habitat mosaics at the Wicken Fen Vision
Remote sensing techniques offer effective ways of monitoring broad changes in the extent of vegetation and standing water across large expanses of wetland habitat. A protocol designed to capture and interpret landscape-scale data for this purpose has been developed for the Wicken Fen Vision in Cambridgeshire. This is an ambitious habitat creation project aiming to expand the boundary of the adjacent Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve by the purchase of c.50km of degraded farmland. Restoration of wetland habitats on the ex-arable fields is being carried out through natural regeneration and recovery of artificially lowered water tables. At the present time the area under restoration covers around 880 hectares (8.8km2). The following 3 steps were taken:

Key steps
1. Fly FCIR aerial images when wetland vegetation is at its peak (July or early August: book flights in advance). 2. Ensure receipt of digitised FCIR image within one week of flight. 3. Quality check digital images*. 4. Produce a single image from all available images*. 5. Instigate Image Segmentation Technique*. 6. Commence ground-truthing a maximum of two weeks following receipt of aerial images**. 7. Collate imformation and analyse chosen environmental indices**. 8. Repeat capture of FCIR data once every five years and repeat analysis.
* GIS specialist required. **ecological expertise required.

5.1.3 Characterising the mosaic

There are many practical advantages to this approach, including the ability to analyse trends in vegetation change both across large areas and within individual fields. The data can be used to derive basic indices that describe the nature of the vegetation mosaic in terms of its structure and (with the additional field survey work) in terms of its broad communities. The outcomes of this approach can show: The relationship between field size and number of different vegetation patches. At the Wicken Fen Vision there is a clear relationship between increased land area and increased number of separate vegetation patches. The amount of edge habitat. Many species like using edge habitat due to the variation in vegetation structure and microclimate

5.1.1 Aerial photography

Aerial photography is one of the most commonly used remote-sensing techniques. Flights over the Wicken Vision project area were undertaken in early August 2007, with True Colour and False Colour Infra Red (FCIR) images collected. Once the images had been digitised, the suitability for mapping landscape-scale vegetation using FCIR imagery was evaluated.


Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

Figure 7: Generic spectra for basic surface types in invisible and Near Infra-Red (NIR) regions. FCIR aerial photography exploits the strong contrast between soil and different types of vegetation. Water has low reflectance in green, red and NIR and thus appears black in FCIR images.

Figure 8: An FCIR image of part of the Wicken Fen Vision project area, with field boundaries marked out in yellow, and segments marked out in black lines

Scale: l__________________________l 0 1km

Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring


Volunteers collecting water beetle samples at the Great Fen landscape-scale restoration project in Huntingdonshire


Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

Section 6: What species should we monitor?

Wetlands have the potential to host a spectacular variety of plants and wildlife. Many species will be recorded ad-hoc by local naturalist organisations or interested members of the public, and whilst this information does have value, if it is not attached to a robust protocol, it will often lack the necessary detail to examine subtle shifts in species composition and location over time. Although some of the protocols described below may be used for recording species within any wetland we have highlighted approaches suitable for landscapescale projects. It is clear that only a selection of species or species groups can be monitored, so monitoring needs to focus on those that help a project manager to build a picture of the changing landscape right across a project area and over the long-term. In this section we distinguish between monitoring vegetation communities where the change in species composition over time is of interest and monitoring individual species where the fate of the individual species is of interest. species, including grasses which are tolerant of wetland conditions, rushes (Juncus spp.), spike rushes (Eleocharis spp.), tall ruderal species, tall emergent species and marginal/aquatic species. Perhaps the most interesting and species-rich mosaic of wetland habitat is found in situations where topography is varied and provides a great variety of water levels. Where water levels drop during summer months, ephemeral areas of moist bare ground (known as drawdown zones) are exposed. These have the potential to contain >85% of a sites wetland species1, providing perfect conditions for the germination of many wetland plant specialists, as well as suitable habitat for a range of birds, invertebrates and lower plants.

6.1.2 Choosing monitoring locations

In general terms, vegetation monitoring is put in place to document the long-term extent and diversity of vegetation communities across a project area. In practical terms, monitoring is essential if informed management decisions are to be made. Large areas of wetland are likely to contain a wide variety of habitats, and locations for the monitoring of vegetation should attempt to be representative of this variety. Replication within these representative areas adds greatly to the statistical robustness of long-term monitoring data, and should be considered at an early stage of design.

6.1 Monitoring terrestrial vegetation communities

6.1.1 Understanding wetland vegetation
Plant species that occur within wetlands or can tolerate wetland conditions are referred to as hydrophytes (wetland plants). The root systems of hydrophytic plants are able to tolerate lengthy periods of standing water or saturated soils, with the depth of inundation and duration of saturated conditions directly influencing where plant species are located. These characteristics, coupled with the hydrology of the site, lead to the formation of hydroseres which are distinct, often overlapping zones of vegetation across a hydrological gradient from open water to dry land. Each zone is likely to contain dominant

6.1.3 Monitoring techniques

Monitoring can take place at a variety of spatial scales to pick up general trends as well as subtle changes within the wetland system and the exact method chosen should reflect the purpose of the monitoring. Each scale and method has its own advantages and disadvantages, but projects should aim to employ a minimum of two of the techniques set out in Table 1 (over) to pick up changes at different scales.

Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring


Table 1: Vegetation monitoring approaches

* DAFOR where a species is either Dominant (71100%), Abundant (3170%), Frequent (1130%), Occasional (410%), or Rare (03%)

6.2 Monitoring aquatic habitats

Areas of permanent open water offer challenges that are different to those of monitoring terrestrial wetland vegetation. Within landscape-scale restoration projects, such features often act as vital refuges for fauna and flora which would once have been present across a much wider area. They are potentially important as sources of species that might colonise new wetland features. There are well tested methodologies available for linear features2, ponds and standing water3. Methodologies are also available for specialist aquatic groups such as benthic diatoms4.

which may have been confined to biodiversity hotpots may appear in new habitats and indicate a different type of connectivity. Other species may be monitored for what they tell us about environmental quality. We have chosen species indicative of four different aspects of landscape-scale projects in the Fens and these can broadly be categorised as: Species linked to environmental quality Flagship species Landscape species or species assemblages Species indicative of landscape connectivity

Case study: water quality

Water quality is complex to understand and can fluctuate rapidly over time. Repeated monitoring within a project area can be expensive and extremely time consuming and as a result, data are often only sporadically collected or not collected at all and chosen water quality tests may not be appropriate. At the same time, we know that there is a direct link between water quality and biodiversity. There are a number of species groups which perform the task of acting as acceptable surrogates for water quality. In fact they are often more useful to monitor than direct measurement of water quality because they reflect the spectrum of water quality conditions through the seasons and between years. The three groups for which guidance is currently available are: water beetles aquatic macrophytes2 diatoms5 Although identification of all of the above groups requires a relatively high level of expertise, well designed surveys still represent a cheaper alternative to water chemistry analysis, and the output of such surveys is often more useful to land managers.

6.3 Monitoring species as indicators of landscape change

Species or species groups can be chosen in such a way that they tell a project manager about different aspects of a landscape-scale project. Some species indicate landscape attributes such as connectivity (for example, migratory fish in river systems), while others

6.3.1 Species linked to environmental quality

Data collected on vegetation through the fine scale monitoring protocols outlined above can often be useful for inferring general environmental quality (for example, changes in soil nutrient status by converting plant abundance data to nutrient values using the Ellenberg scoring system5). Monitoring of other species groups can, for example, tell us about changing water quality.


Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

6.3.2 Flagship species

Some wetlands will support populations of species which are nationally rare and visually attractive, and monitoring their presence can help to gain publicity, support and funding which will benefit a range of other species to be found inhabiting the same ecosystem. For example, the breeding success of bitterns Botaurus stellaris will be linked to the health and population size of the fish, amphibian and insect assemblages.

6.3.3 Landscape species/assemblages

A restoration project undertaken at the landscape-scale is likely to provide habitats for species that have recently been described in the literature as landscape species. These are defined as species that require large and diverse territories for completion of their lifecycles, and that may have significant impacts on the structure and function of their habitats6. Some landscape species can be used to provide a general measure of the health of the ecosystem within which they occur (see Figure 9) when these species are also top-level (apex) predators. Landscape species are often aesthetically attractive or newsworthy species, and so may also lend greater credibility and general interest to the project area.

At the Great Fen Project and the Wicken Fen Vision in the fenlands of eastern England, landscape species have included marsh harriers, common cranes, otters and shorteared owls. At these projects the landscape effect can be observed in both the arrival of new landscape species and a rise in the population and expansion in the range of others. Recording such effects indicates that the project size has exceeded a critical barrier to the use of the area by these species. Landscape species can also include animals which are perhaps not immediately obvious candidates. Self-reliant grazing herds managed within an extensive grazing system fulfil the criteria for landscape species, and the monitoring of their movements and grazing habits can be very valuable when attempting to understand vegetation patterns at a landscape-scale. At the Wicken Fen Vision other animals like roe deer have also arrived and formed resident herds because of the large-scale of the project. Sometimes groups of associated species such as breeding wading birds or wetland invertebrate assemblages can also serve as excellent indicators of the landscape effect. Guidance is available for objectively choosing which landscape species to monitor 7, although the criteria have not been tested in a landscape-scale wetland.

Birds as indicators of connectivity Perhaps the most obvious animals associated with inter and intra-site connectivity are birds. Birds are known to perform a very important functional role in maintaining a connection between and within wetlands8. In particular, waterbird movement provides an excellent dispersal mechanism for aquatic plants and for invertebrate migration and in general terms contributes to an increase in local species richness. Having an understanding of which species are using the wetland (as stop-over sites on migration routes, for over-wintering or breeding) and where they are located, greatly adds to the value attached to a wetland from a regional, national and international perspective. This requires wintering and breeding bird surveys to be carried out and the results of these can influence the timing of management activities, for example, the raising or lowering of water tables where there is control over these. Invertebrates as indicators of connectivity When dealing with such an incredibly diverse phylum, there are bound to be species which are better adapted to dispersal than others. Dragonflies are obvious examples as they can fly long distances and will rapidly colonise new areas of suitable habitat. Conversely, many adult aquatic insects may not be able to fly overland between patches of suitable habitats, and within linear aquatic features barriers such as culverts or polluted water may limit dispersal by invertebrate larvae9. Mammals as indicators of connectivity Large scale wetlands have the potential to support a wide variety of mammals, many of which have experienced dramatic declines in populations across the UK in recent years. Some species, such as otters and water voles, need the connectivity of water features such as ditches with particular bank habitats and good water quality in order to spread. There are widely available methodologies for surveying otters, mink, water voles, water shrews and bank voles, as well as other small mammals and a range of bat species. In order to standardise the results of survey effort across the UK, there are also recognized guidelines for designing monitoring (surveillance) schemes for mammals though not all are appropriate or adaptable to landscape-scale projects.12

6.3.4 Species indicative of landscape connectivity

When species appear for the first time at a restoration project site they indicate that the habitat is now suitable and that new connections have been made between parts of the landscape at some spatial scale, whether small or large. Such connections might be between two, adjacent, habitat patches, between a local biodiversity hotspot (such as an established nature reserve) and the new landscape-scale restoration area or it might be between the restoration area and areas much further away. At the Great Fen Project in Huntingdonshire, beetle species have been recorded that were previously only known from the adjacent, highly species-rich, Woodwalton Fen National Nature Reserve. Their arrival indicates connectivity between the two sites. On the other hand, the arrival and breeding of Common Cranes at the RSPBs large-scale wetland creation site at Lakenheath and subsequent sightings at the Great Fen, Nene Washes and the Wicken Fen Vision probably indicates that at a larger landscape scale, the matrix and scale of suitable wetland habitat in the fenland area is close to providing a critical level of connectivity that is attractive to this species.

Figure 9: Landscape species such as marsh harrier are also termed umbrella species as they can be used to represent the health of a range of species that co-exist with them.

Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring


Semi-feral Konik ponies at the Wicken Fen Vision behave as landscape species as their grazing activities contribute to the shaping of habitats.


Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

Case Study: invertebrate surveys at the landscape-scale

A novel survey methodology has been designed for use at the Great Fen and Wicken Fen Vision restoration projects that allows relatively rapid survey of invertebrates across large areas and diverse habitat mosaics. It should provide a general but robust and repeatable measure of change in the invertebrate fauna across different wetland habitat types but will need to be tested over several years 11. The method allows comparison of the overall biodiversity interest of the invertebrate assemblages over time and across habitats by the addition of uncommon and wetlandspecific species to the recorded fauna, and the use of indices to assign a value to faunal quality. It should allow landscape connectivities for invertebrates to be identified and tracked through time.

Cerapheles terminatus10, is a beetle species found at the Great Fen in 2009 and is likely to have come from the adjacent hotspot of Woodwalton Fen National Nature.

Amphibians as indicators of connectivity The nature of many amphibians means that connectivity between hibernation and breeding habitat is vital for their continued survival. The potential for expansion of populations within landscape-scale wetlands is high, and can be measured by fairly simple survey techniques. The National Amphibian Survey website, run by the National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme (NARRS), has more details about schemes currently running, and can be found at Plants as indicators of connectivity Plants are perhaps the most difficult group to rigorously monitor for migration and connectivity, as they may arrive through a wide variety of dispersal mechanisms, including on peoples rubber boots! The vegetation monitoring protocols set out in Table 1 (fine and broad scales) in this section are probably the most reliable tools for measuring change and picking up patterns of dispersal and spread. However, there are species which are associated with connectivity and dispersal which

can be targeted. These plants are almost exclusively alien invasive species which are frequently dispersed by birds, such as the now widespread Australian Stonecrop Crassula helmsii. Such species may spread rapidly within and between wetlands, and knowledge of their presence at an early stage is desirable so that control can be considered.

Gathering baseline information for landscape connectivity

In all of the examples noted above, and once clear goals have been assigned to monitoring protocols, the gathering of baseline data across the wetland is an essential step in attempting to understand connectivity between areas and the movement of species. Once these data have been collected, the appearance of new species in new locations and the establishment of connections can be reported with greater confidence.

Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring


Landscape-scale wetland restoration projects are capable of storing significant volumes of water and of reducing flood risk in downstream areas.


Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

Section 7: Can we monitor ecosystem services?

7.1 What are ecosystem services?
Ecosystem services can broadly be described as the benefits that people get from ecosystems. More specifically, they are services that a natural ecosystem can provide but which can be assigned a value, for example an economic value or a value in terms of human well-being. The concept is relatively recent and the development of ways to measure and value ecosystem services is a rapidly growing field of research and application. There is a particular interest in how areas designated as priority areas for nature conservation, such as wetland nature reserves, can have their value better acknowledged in decision-making. A widely used classification of the particular ecosystem services that wetlands can provide are given in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and listed in the table 2 below1 Table 2. Ecosystem services provided by wetlands1 In this guideline document we will briefly explore direct and indirect ways of measuring ecosystem services that landscape-scale projects can provide. Any wetland restoration project may be capable of providing some of the ecosystem services listed above, but a landscape-scale wetland restoration project will have a better capacity to provide regulating and supporting services than a small restoration project. Many regulating services are linked to hydrological pathways through the landscape and the larger the area over which they take place the greater the potential for providing the service. The large size of landscape-scale wetland restoration projects gives them a high potential capacity to store flood water and reduce flood risk, and to accumulate organic matter and therefore be a sink for greenhouse gases, though the latter is dependent on the amount and permanency of waterlogged land.

Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring


7.2 Direct measurements of ecosystem services

Measuring and putting a value on ecosystem services is difficult. The hydrological measurements detailed in section 3 can contribute to measuring the physical capacity to provide some services related to hydrological function. Some examples incorporating these and other measurements are listed here: Knowing where water tables lie allows calculation of remaining capacity to take flood water at different times in the year. Knowing for how long water sits at the surface of a wetland gives some indication of its capacity to contribute to aquifer recharge though this is one of the hardest areas to quantify. Knowing how dry or how waterlogged soils are at different times of the year can feed into numerical models for calculating the capacity for carbon to be conserved or even sequestered across the site. Measurement of visitor numbers and visitor activities can begin to express the value of the site in terms of cultural services. Plants support invertebrates that pollinate agricultural crops. Measuring the presence and abundance of plant species across a site can help calculate the contribution that a site makes to essential pollination services.

7.3 Indirect measurements of ecosystem services

Although it is very useful to be able to quantify these ecosystem services, it is also useful to find ways of expressing these ecosystem services in terms of the value that people get from them2. Approaches to this are still being developed but it is possible to envisage, for example, expressing the amount of flood water that can be stored at a landscape-scale wetland restoration site in terms of the number of houses not flooded as a result of that water storage. In other words, converting the physical service into its value or benefit to people, can be used either in developing policies or in helping stakeholders to see the benefits of a landscape-scale project area. The biggest constraint to this process at the present time is the lack of reliable methods for attaching values to many ecosystem services. However, when setting up a monitoring programme for a landscape-scale restoration project it is useful to consider whether data collected about different biological and physical processes on the site can also contribute to measuring and valuing ecosystem services.


Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

Section 8: Monitoring local support and concerns

Explaining how a project works by taking local people on a guided walk can help to break down misconceptions and engage peoples interest

8.1 Engaging with local people

People who live near a landscape-scale restoration project can find it difficult to come to terms with change on their doorstep. While some may welcome the development of large natural areas, others may feel threatened by the sudden change in land use and loss of familiar landscapes. If a project is to be

accepted and viewed in a positive light, then communicating and engaging with local people throughout the process of developing a project is essential. One way of doing this is to involve them in monitoring activities as these can provide wonderful opportunities for volunteers to have fun and to learn more about the wildlife to be found in wetlands. Training in species identification and monitoring protocols requires projects

to employ skilled ecologists but provides volunteers with vocational skills, and the project with useful data. Volunteering also serves an important social function by bringing people together from local communities who share common interests. The retention of volunteers and the recruitment of new volunteers is one way of monitoring how interested and enthusiastic people are about the restoration work.
Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring 27


Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

Case study
Mick Burton, volunteer at the Great Fen Project in Cambridgeshire
I volunteered for the Great Fen project in March 2005. I thought I could bring a bit of time, a lot of enthusiasm and a lifetime of bird watching, but I was looking for something too and I certainly got this in abundance. I have greatly extended my wildlife identification and other capabilities beyond ornithology. I guess most of the work I have done has been a bit of a busmans holiday bird surveys. However, I had not done any surveying before (just watching and record keeping) and now I organise winter and spring bird surveys across the Great Fen, involving a dozen or so other volunteers at various times during the year. So, I learned about how to design surveys and, in the course of this, developed a variety of GIS skills. Being around on the fen through the seasons I have also got involved in guided walks. These are fantastic as I can share my knowledge and enthusiasm with a range of others. I have one regular Customer now The Peterborough Tuesday Ramblers. They come 3 or 4 times a year and always make a generous contribution to the project. I am also a backup / additional guide for when the site manager or project manager organise visits. I have found the people involved in the Great Fen project (on a professional basis) really helpful and they are all willing to share their knowledge and experience. I have learned a lot from them and this has enabled me to extend my support into two other areas of natural history plants and insects. Not only is this helpful to the Great Fen, but it has given me a focus for my personal studies in these fields. This only represents a few of the things I have done. I have been fortunate to have been given many varied tasks all of which have been great fun. I organised the demolition of some old farm buildings, organised the framing of 80 Great Fen drawings and paintings, and even spent a couple of days lugging some of the gear for a wildlife photographer as part of Alan Titchmarshs BBC 2 series that included the Great Fen. I suspect that in the next 5 years there will be lots of equally rewarding experiences!

8.2 Measuring changing attitudes to landscape-scale projects

Another approach may be to set up various focus groups or stakeholder panels which include representatives of different parts of the local community and to consider using one of a number of methods, devised by social scientists, that measure how people feel about conservation projects. One such approach is called The Most Significant Change (MSC) method1. This essentially consists of collecting peoples stories about aspects of the project, archiving those stories and then analysing over time whether the stories have become generally more positive or not. The MSC method is a participatory process involving stakeholders, practitioners and researchers. It was pioneered in participatory rural development programmes, primarily in tropical countries2 but has considerable relevance as an approach to

landscape-scale restoration projects in the UK. The process of collecting and archiving stories can be time-intensive, and should be undertaken by project staff that meet stakeholders on a regular basis and have a specific remit for collating and reporting on this information. An example topic likely to be prevalent at many restoration projects and that could be covered by the MSC method is public access to the project area. This topic has the potential if left unchecked to become a highly divisive issue. At the inception of a project, it could be envisaged that many local people would have concerns regarding reduced access to the project area, and so they might tell negative stories about their experience. Over time and as these concerns are recorded and addressed, their stories should become more positive. Comparison of these archived stories over time allows a semi-quantitative analysis of change to be made.

Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring


Volunteers being trained in water beetle identification at the Great Fen Project


Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

Section 9: Who should undertake monitoring and how often should it be done?
At the same time as choosing which monitoring protocols to include, it is important to consider who will be responsible for collecting, analysing and reporting on field data, and the desired frequency of data collection for each protocol. Organising monitoring to be undertaken by staff, volunteers or professionals takes planning and sometimes considerable resources. at the start of a monitoring programme. In addition, many professionals are fully booked well ahead of summer field seasons, so booking them early is a priority.

9.1.2 Professionals and volunteers

Some protocols which involve specialist skills have the potential to involve volunteers in field collection or identification, particularly if suitable training and guidance is provided. In such situations, the bulk of the identification is usually undertaken by the professional, with the volunteer acting as a field assistant. However, standardised protocols produced by nature conservation organisations are constantly being refined to be as inclusive as possible, and it is worthwhile checking whether a species group requiring some form of monitoring has a protocol that would be suitable for a volunteer to lead. The Wildlife Trusts have a particularly good track record for setting up and training Ecology Groups for monitoring individual nature reserves. Occasionally protocols (usually involving invertebrate sampling) require samples to be removed from a site for microscopic identification. Such circumstances present excellent opportunities for increasing skills within the volunteer community through independent working, and training in the use of microscopes and dichotomous keys for identification of species. Independent identification can then be confirmed by the professional at a workshop soon after the survey.

9.1 Deciding who should monitor

Decisions on who should undertake surveys will largely depend upon the level of expertise required for a given task, the specific training needs, the workforce and associated funding available, and the time (in terms of organisation, training, fieldwork and data processing) required to complete a protocol. In remote areas of wetland, health and safety procedures will need to be established. The social and educational aspects of monitoring also need to be taken into account.

9.1.1 Professionals/specialists
A protocol which is complex in design, time consuming and requires specialist skills should always be led by a professional individual such as an ecologist or hydrologist. Such protocols include detailed and fixed vegetation surveys, interpretation of remote sensing imagery, soil chemistry analysis, or surveys targeted at legally protected species. Employing professionals requires minimal staff time but will need a dedicated budget

Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring


Practical surveys which combine the skills of professionals and volunteers often result in a high volunteer retention rate for future years. This relationship is particularly popular with volunteers who are interested in learning more about the flora and fauna of their local area, and wish to be involved in broad scale surveys. Whilst these protocols can be expensive options to implement and maintain (provision of field equipment/microscopes, plant keys, travel & subsistence payments, etc + payment of professionals), they do present many positive outcomes for a project by providing practical and transferable skills, building a skilled and socially active volunteer network, and creating a positive image of the restoration project.

Birdwatching is an extremely popular pastime, with recent figures from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) stating that approximately three million adults go birdwatching every year in the UK. This popularity results in a large and diverse pool of potential volunteers who are well trained in bird song and visual identification. Utilising these local skills for wintering and breeding bird surveys, and offering sufficient training for volunteers to expand their skill base, provides useful data and also encourages a sense of inclusion for people who live near to (and sometimes within) large wetland reserves.

For features such as broad-scale vegetation patterns, annual monitoring is not required as long-term trends and changes can be measured at less frequent intervals, over many decades. Although it could be argued that the minutia will be missed, trying to capture every twist and turn in a projects evolution is expensive and unnecessary. Remote sensing techniques give valuable insights into vegetation change at a landscape scale, but aerial surveys will probably only be appropriate once every five or more years due to the flight costs and time involved in image interpretation. Other monitoring activities do need to be carried out annually and these require necessary professionals or volunteers and sometimes financial resources or specialist equipment to undertake repetition of the protocol. For example, breeding and wintering bird monitoring in the UK often follows protocols designed by the British Trust for Ornithology and requires annual surveys. Monitoring the impact of management on aquatic macrophytes may also require annual surveys, but a limited timeframe can be set for the completion of the survey, so that the results of monitoring can be acted upon. When initiating a wetland restoration project, the early stages of colonization are often the most important to monitor and can produce interesting and unexpected results which can inform future decisions on wetland creation and land management activities1, 2. Annual surveys are more justified in these circumstances, but can cease or become less frequent after the first few years. Surveys can always be re-visited in the future if more information is required, or different questions need answering. The timing of a survey, when repeated, should try and keep to the same date and month in all future survey years. By doing this, you help to eliminate general biotic and abiotic variation within seasons. However, sometimes it is impossible to plan for events which happen within a wetland environment. The arrival of a flagship species (for example a pair of breeding common cranes) can create great excitement, and often demands that resources are (at least temporarily) quickly directed towards the monitoring of such species. In such circumstances, a moment should be taken to assess objectively what is required from the monitoring, as any changes in the methodology in future years will undermine the statistical analysis that can be performed on the data.

9.1.3 Volunteers
The level of expertise and experience that volunteers bring to a monitoring programme can often be underestimated. Some will have just graduated with environmental degrees seeking practical skills, a few may be retired ecologists, many will be enthusiastic amateur naturalists, and others will have worked in a job sector which provides valuable organisational, financial or analytical skills. Choosing which protocols volunteers are involved in will, to a large extent, depend upon their background and experience. Once this is established, and after an initial period of training in which a methodology is clearly explained and practically demonstrated, volunteers may be given primary responsibility for the collection of data for numerous protocols, including broad scale monitoring of vegetation, bird surveys, repeated collection of water level measurements, carefully tailored mammal surveys, etc. It is advisable to explain the thinking behind landscape-scale conservation and teach a basic understanding of wetland ecology to put tasks into context, but narrowing the measurements volunteers are asked to take is a key factor in obtaining usable data and holding the interest of the volunteer. Lone working is not advisable for several reasons, the most important being health and safety, social inclusion, and practical support.

9.1.4 School groups/student projects

Answering very specific questions requires a level of detail and effort which sometimes falls somewhere between volunteers and professionals. Undergraduate or post-graduate student projects can be especially useful in providing this type of information, although close supervision in the initial design stage is advisable so that it best fits the needs of the restoration project. The inclusion of school groups should be approached more from an educational standpoint than one in which useful data is collected. However, it is possible to set up methodologies which produce basic data whilst adhering to the National Curriculum. At the Wicken Fen Vision in Cambridgeshire, transects have been set up for school groups to record fixed quadrats along a hydrological gradient. The survey requires close supervision and expert botanical guidance, but provides the school groups with an introduction to field methodologies and species identification, and provides the project with data on the vegetation of a chosen location.

9.2 Frequency and timing of monitoring

Collecting information can become an addictive pursuit, sometimes resulting in huge quantities of data being accrued, but with no time to analyse or act upon the information given by the data. Working with landscape-scale projects increases this temptation for data collection, as there are so many aspects of a wetland which could be monitored. It is, therefore, essential that the monitoring design includes the stated frequency of repetition for each chosen monitoring activity.


Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring



Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

Section 10: Funding monitoring

Monitoring can be very expensive especially if it entails buying technical equipment such as data loggers for hydrological measurements. Two approaches that are often neglected for ensuring funding for monitoring activities are: a. To always include a monitoring component in the budget at the time of land purchase and b. To set aside some funding out of each financial years operating costs and put it into a special-purpose monitoring fund for the years in which costs will be incurred. The following steps are recommended for costing the monitoring work: 1. List all the monitoring activities that are considered desirable. 2. Find out if anyone else is already monitoring any of the items on the list. For example, the Environment Agency sometimes has hydrological monitoring stations in a nearby location. It is worth talking to local representatives of the relevant agencies to find out if there would be any willingness on their part to add monitoring equipment to an already existing monitoring system. 3. Divide the list into activities that need to be carried out by professional personnel who require payment and activities that can be carried out by competent volunteers. 4. Look at the list and decide if all the activities are really necessary. This requires considerable thought about why you want particular information and who is going to use it and how it will be disseminated. It is easy to collect data because they are interesting but unless they also tell you what you would like to know about the development of the project it is worth being conservative with the length of your wish list! 5. Long-term projects do not generally need all monitoring activities carried out every year so be strict about deciding on monitoring intervals for different monitoring activities. For example, in Section 6 it was explained that monitoring of soil chemistry was not necessary every year and that for a project on a large scale with many different soils, monitoring soluble phosphorus every 5 years can tell you as much as you need to know about changes taking place. Spreading the costs across years is a good way of keeping annual expenditure to a minimum. 6. Find out what sources of external funding exist for monitoring activities and enlist the help of relevant professionals to prepare funding applications.

Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring


Table 3: Relationships between project goals, monitoring activities and project impacts or benefits at the Wicken Fen Vision1


Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

Section 11: Project evaluation

If a restoration project has fixed targets for the presence of specific flora and fauna, then evaluation can be as simple as recording number of species or extent of habitat, and then assessing actual gain or loss between recording periods. Because many landscapescale restoration projects have as their main aims the development of connections through the landscape and the promotion natural processes as facilitators of landscape change, it is not possible to evaluate such projects against any set species or habitat targets. However, project managers need the results of monitoring to make decisions on the continuing development of the landscape and some form of evaluation can be useful in creating a positive attitude towards the project from a wide range of potentially sceptical stakeholders. It is suggested here that open-ended projects should use terms such as measuring the benefits or impacts or examining the consequences of intervention in their evaluation rather than invent indicators of success. If a projects starting point is ecologically highly impoverished, then any recorded species gain might strictly speaking be considered a benefit. In evaluating project outcomes, highly variable biodiversity gains can be expected through time, though this is likely to be particularly marked in the first decades of the project. For example, while birds may initially exploit areas of a newly formed marginal wetland, it may take a lot longer to acquire the diverse soil invertebrate fauna on which these bird species rely over the long term. Similarly, vegetation resembling species-poor wet grassland may form fairly rapidly adjacent to this wetland but might take many decades to acquire higher diversity as this is dependent on the arrival and establishment of plant propagules and often on lower levels of soil fertility which can take a long time to drop. Evaluation thus becomes a long-term process with a fairly relaxed relationship between monitoring information and management. Relationships between project goals, monitoring activities and project impacts at the Wicken Fen Vision in Cambridgeshire are given in Table 3 (left).

Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring


Organising workshops to disseminate information can provide very useful opportunities for discussing a range of issues and for sharing monitoring experience.


Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

Section 12: Beyond the project

12.1 Connecting with other landscape-scale projects
It is very useful to meet regularly with people working at other landscape-scale projects. This allows exchange of best-practice in monitoring activities and exchange of experience gained. It is also useful to get to know relevant individuals in agencies and other organisations concerned with landscape-scale projects. These can include the Environment Agency, Natural England (or equivalent agency), NGOs, local Irrigation Drainage Boards and members of County, District and Parish Councils. Any of these may well be able to contribute either with data, local knowledge or funding for monitoring activities.

12.2 Dissemination of monitoring data

It is really important that monitoring results are made available to project staff, agency personnel and to interested members of the public. The best way to do this is to write clear and accessible reports on the findings, and where practical to make data sets available. This can involve setting up dedicated areas of project websites or using national recording systems such as the National Biodiversity Network.1 There is also a growing body of information on conservation best-practice available on the Conservation Evidence website2 and contributing to this body of knowledge may greatly assist someone else in setting up a monitoring system.

Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring


Useful references and further reading

Section 1: Introduction to landscapescale projects
Following Forman and Godron (1986) Landscape Ecology. New York, NY, John Wiley and Sons

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) bio-soils/en/

Kratz, W., 1998. The bait-lamina test general aspects, applications and perspectives. Environmental Science and Pollution Research 5, 9496.

Section 2: Why monitor landscapescale projects?

Hughes, F.M.R., Stroh, P .A., Adams, W.M., Kirby, K.J., Mountford, J.O. and Warrington, S. Monitoring and evaluating landscape-scale, open-ended habitat creation projects: a journey rather than a destination. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Section 6: What species should we monitor?

The Drawdown Zone website: Drawdown_Zone_WebSite/Welcome.html

Pete Coppolillo, Humberto Gomez, Fiona Maisels and Robert Wallace (2004). Selection criteria for suites of landscape species as a basis for site-based conservation. Biological Conservation, Volume 115(3): 419-430 _ob=MImg&_imagekey=B6V5X-48WJPTC-18&_cdi=5798&_user=1004260&_pii=S000 6320703001599&_orig=search&_coverDate =02%2F29%2F2004&_sk=998849996& view=c&wchp=dGLbVzb-zSkWz&md5 =8d1ef989ccf773f5b880404223d7c353& ie=/sdarticle.pdf

Hughes, F.M.R. (ed) (2003) The flooded forest: guidance for policy makers and river managers in Europe on the restoration of floodplain forests. European Union-FLOBAR2, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK. flobar2/reports/final/flobar2.pdf

Margaret Palmer, Martin Drake, Nick Stewart (2009). A manual for the survey and evaluation of the aquatic plant and invertebrate assemblages of ditches. Buglife Report Documents/Ditch%20Manual%20Version% 203.pdf

J.M. Amezaga, L. Santamara & A.J. Green (2002) Biotic wetland connectivity supporting a new approach for wetland policy. Acta Oecologica 23: 213222

Kevin Collier, Ude Shankar, Peter Smith (2004) Measuring stream network connectivity: how close is close enough? Water & Atmosphere 12(1): 14-15
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Image from Peter Kirby (2009) Wicken Fen Vision and Great Fen invertebrate surveys available from the National Trust at Wicken Fen or the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Peterborough.

Section 3: What should be monitored?

Leon A. Bennun (2001). Long-term monitoring and the conservation of tropical wetlands: high ideals and harsh realities. Hydrobiologia 458: 919, 2001 g402404102756137/
1 2

Biggs, J., Fox, G., Whitfield, M. and Williams,P ., 1998. A Guide to the Methods of the National Pond Survey. Oxford Brookes Pond Action.


Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005. Ecosystems and human well-being: Wetlands and Water Synthesis. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC. documents/document.358.aspx.pdf

Dr. Marian Yallop (2008). A Study of the Diatom Assemblages in Grazing Marsh Ditches: Application to Assessment of Ecological and Conservation Status Part 1: Gwent and Somerset Levels. Bristol University. Documents/Ditch%20Project%20-% 20Diatom%20Report%202008.pdf

12 Guidelines for designing mammal surveillance schemes are freely available via The Tracking Mammals Partnership (TMP) website .

Section 4: Monitoring physical processes


McCartney, M. P ., & de la Hera, A. (2004) Hydrological assessment for wetland conservation at Wicken Fen. Wetlands Ecology and Management 12:189-204. Soil maps can be obtained from LandIS, the Land Information System operated by Cranfield University

Hill, M. O., Preston, C. D. & Roy, D. B. (2004). PLANTATT. Attributes of British and Irish Plants: Status, Size, Life History, Geography and Habitats. NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. Abbots Ripton. PLANTATT-AttributesofBritishandIrish PlantsStatusSizeLifeHistoryGeographyand Habitats.html
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Section 7: Can we monitor Ecosystem Services?

Millenium Ecosystem Assessment 2005. Ecosystems and Human well-being: Wetlands and Water. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC. documents/document.358.aspx.pdf

Sanderson, E.W., Redford, K.H., Vedder, A., Coppolillo, P .B., Ward, S.E., 2002. A conceptual model for conservation planning based on landscape species requirements. Landscape and Urban Planning 58, 4156.

Springate-Baginski, O., Allen, D. and Darwall, W.R.T. (eds.) 2009. An Integrated Wetland Assessment Toolkit:a guide to good practice. Gland, Switzerland:IUCN and Cambridge,UK:IUCN Species Programme. Xv+144p.


Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

Section 8: Monitoring local support and concerns

1 Wilder, L. and M. Walpole. 2008? Measuring Social impacts in conservation: experience of using the Most Significant Change method in a project in Cambodia. Oryx 42(4):529-538.

Davies, R. and Dart, J. (2005) The Most Significant Change (MSC) technique: A guide to its use.

Section 9: Who should undertake monitoring and how often?

M. L. Yallop and M.J. OConnell (2000). Wetland creation: early stages in colonization of phytoplankton and submerged macrophytes in hypereutrophic freshwater lagoons. Aquatic Conserv: Mar. Freshw. Ecosyst. 10: 305309
1 2 M.L. Yallop, M.J. OConnell and R. Bullock (2004). Waterbird herbivory on a newly created wetland complex: potential implications for site management and habitat creation Wetlands Ecology and Management 12: 395408.

Section 11: Project evaluation

Hughes, F.M.R., Stroh, P .A., Adams, W.M., Kirby, K.J., Mountford, J.O. and Warrington, S. Monitoring and evaluating landscape-scale, open-ended habitat creation projects: a journey rather than a destination. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Section 12: Beyond the project

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NBN Gateway

There are several conservation-evidence websites. The Conservation Evidence website (based at the University of Cambridge and the University of East Anglia) can be found at and another similar initiative called the Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation (CEBC) based at the University of Bangor menu=0&catid=0 and its associated international partner website htm
Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring 41

We would like to thank a great number of individuals and organisations that have contributed materially or intellectually to our work on monitoring landscape-scale projects in the fenlands of East Anglia and to the development of this guideline document. The first 6 years (20072012) of monitoring at the Wicken Fen Vision and at the Great Fen have been funded by the Esme Fairbairn Foundation (Grant numbers 06-2151 & 092739), with contributions from the Environment Agency and Anglia Ruskin University. We are greatly indebted to these organisations for their generous support. We are also indebted to National Trust staff at Wicken Fen and to the Natural England and Wildlife Trust Staff at Great Fen for providing considerable logistical and moral support. To the members of our steering group committee, listed at the front of the document, we are indebted for lively discussions, intellectual input and frequent reminders of the practicalities of managing landscape-scale restoration projects! This document draws on our collective thinking over a number of years but has also been influenced by contributors to a workshop organised to explore ways to monitor and evaluate open-ended habitat creation projects, held at Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire, UK in November 2009. We would like to thank everyone who came and contributed to this workshop including: Bill Adams (University of Cambridge), Malcolm Ausden (RSPB), Peter Bircham (University of Cambridge), Jennie BloodSmyth (Volunteer Wicken Fen), Alan Bowley (Natural England), Richard Bradbury (RSPB), Philip Broadbent-Yale (National Trust), Alastair Burn (Natural England), Charlie Burrell (Knepp Wildland Project), Mick Burton (Volunteer Great Fen), Peter Carey (Independent Consultant), Iain Diack (Natural England), Chris Gerrard (Wildlife Trust), Simon Goodson (Wildlife Trust), David Gowing (Open University), Matt Heard (CEH Wallingford), Keith Kirby (Natural England), Peter Kirby (Independent invertebrate consultant), Martin Lester (National Trust), Blaise Martay (Anglia Ruskin University), Nick McWilliam (Oryx Mapping & Anglia Ruskin University), Owen Mountford (CEHWallingford), Kathy Newman (Volunteer Wicken Fen), Margaret Palmer (Buglife), Lorna Parker (Wildlife Trust), Lesley Saint (Environment Agency),Norman Sills (RSPB), Geoff Smith (Specto Natura), Chris Soans (National Trust), Jo Treweek (Independent environmental consultant), Stuart Warrrington (National Trust). Photographs have been taken by Bill Adams, Francine Hughes, Riamsara Knapp, Rachel Rees and Peter Stroh. The photograph of Cerapheles terminatus is by Roy Kleukers. Layout and design by Deb Tyrrell (Corporate Marketing, Anglia Ruskin University). Art work by Phil Stickler (Department of Geography, University of Cambridge).


Practical Approaches to Wetland Monitoring

For further information contact: Pete Stroh or Francine Hughes Department of Life Sciences Anglia Ruskin University East Road Cambridge CB1 1PT Call: 0845 196 2606 / 2607 Click: Email: or

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