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New tool links freshwater ecological status and ecosystem services

April 29, 2016
2012_11_27_Loch Leven_AirLandWater1

Loch Leven. Image: Laurence Carvalho

A major challenge for freshwater scientists and managers is linking the health of an ecosystem (measured as ecological status in the Water Framework Directive) and the services that it provides.  An underlying question here is: does a healthy ecosystem necessarily provide more ecosystem services?

A new online tool developed by Laurence Carvalho and colleagues in the EU OpenNESS project tracks how the quality of the brown trout fishery in Loch Leven in Scotland responded to changes in habitat quality between 1972-2014.

Using a mixture of historical data and expert judgements, the tool allows users – including fishermen and fishery managers – to model how the loch’s habitat and fishery might develop until 2027 (when the WFD is due to be revised).

The tool uses a mathematical system known as Dynamic Bayesian Network, where different variables can be related to each other over time.  The loch’s habitat quality can be altered over time using a set of interactive sliders, causing the model to suggest how fishery catches and reputation are likely to change in response.

Whilst this tool has been developed only for Loch Leven, it shows the potential of this approach for bringing together complex historical ecological data in an accessible format to forecast future changes.

More specifically, it provides a useful tool for freshwater managers looking for ways to justify and communicate the value of conservation and restoration to the people who use and enjoy rivers and lakes.

Loch Leven OpenNESS tool

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