Spatial patterns and environmental constraints on ecosystem services at a catchment scale

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Improved understanding and prediction of the fundamental environmental controls on ecosystem service supply across the landscape will help to inform decisions made by policy makers and land-water managers. To evaluate this issue for a local catchment case study, we explored metrics and spatial patterns of service supply for water quality regulation, agriculture production, carbon storage, and biodiversity for the Macronutrient Conwy catchment. Methods included using ecosystem models such as LUCI and JULES, integration of national scale field survey datasets, earth observation products and plant trait databases, to produce finely resolved maps of species richness and primary production. Analyses were done with both 1 × 1 km gridded and subcatchment data. A common single gradient characterised catchment scale ecosystem services supply with agricultural production and carbon storage at opposing ends of the gradient as reported for a national-scale assessment. Species diversity was positively related to production due to the below national average productivity levels in the Conwy combined with the unimodal relationship between biodiversity and productivity at the national scale. In contrast to the national scale assessment, a strong reduction in water quality as production increased was observed in these low productive systems. Various soil variables were tested for their predictive power of ecosystem service supply. Soil carbon, nitrogen, their ratio and soil pH all had double the power of rainfall and altitude, each explaining around 45% of variation but soil pH is proposed as a potential metric for ecosystem service supply potential as it is a simple and practical metric which can be carried out in the field with crowd-sourcing technologies now available. The study emphasises the importance of considering multiple ecosystem services together due to the complexity of covariation at local and national scales, and the benefits of exploiting a wide range of metrics for each service to enhance data robustness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1586-1600
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date5 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016

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