Applying an ecosystem service approach to floodplain habitat restoration
Richards, Daniel R.
PublisherUniversity of Sheffield
MetadataShow full item record
The concept of ecosystem services can provide a framework for holistic habitat management, but has rarely been applied at local scales. In recent history floodplain management in the UK has focused primarily on agriculture and flood defence. Increasingly, floodplains are being managed for a broader range of ecosystem services, for example by reinstating flooding regimes. This study investigated the relationships between floodplain management and service provision in a newly restored floodplain in South Yorkshire, and assessed the utility of an ecosystem service framework for habitat management. Two ecological impacts of hydrological restoration were analysed: plant community change, and water vole persistence. There were hydrologically driven changes in plant community composition, but colonisation by new species was low and there was no evidence of the formation of floodplain grazing marsh target communities. Water voles were more likely to occur around wider water bodies, in areas of tall, diverse vegetation. The restoration of flooding did not negatively impact the water vole distribution. A framework for using encounters with different habitat elements to model recreational experiences at local scales was developed, and was used to compare the quality of recreational experiences provided in different parts of the floodplain. Examination of the relationships between floodplain heterogeneity and the provision of multiple ecosystem services revealed that more heterogeneous floodplains tended to be suboptimal in terms of delivering particular ecosystem services, but more evenly balanced the provision of different services. The potential for an ecosystem service framework to affect habitat management decision making was tested using a decision making exercise. Participants who were provided with information on the greatest number of ecosystem services showed more variable preferences for management scenarios, which could encourage multifunctional management. The findings of the study as a whole suggest that ecosystem service frameworks could feasibly be applied to local habitat management.