Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 20, Issue 11, pp 2461–2481 | Cite as

Impacts of species-led conservation on ecosystem services of wetlands: understanding co-benefits and tradeoffs

  • Brendan FisherEmail author
  • Richard B. Bradbury
  • Julian E. Andrews
  • Malcolm Ausden
  • Stephanie Bentham-Green
  • Sue M. White
  • Jennifer A. Gill
Original Paper


Biodiversity conservation organisations have recently begun to consider a wider ecosystem services context for their activities. While the literature suggests the potential of ‘win–win’ situations where biodiversity conservation and the delivery of ecosystem services overlap, empirical evidence is wanting. Here we explore the role that species-led management for the benefit of biodiversity in cultural landscapes can play in the delivery of wider ecosystem services. We use UK lowland wetlands as a case study and show how successful delivery of species-led conservation through management interventions relies on practices that can affect greenhouse gas fluxes, water quality and regulation, and cultural benefits. In these wetlands, livestock grazing has potentially large effects on water and greenhouse gas related services, but there is little scope to alter management without compromising species objectives. Likewise, there is little potential to alter reedbed management without compromising conservation objectives. There is some potential to alter woodland and scrub management, but this would likely have limited influence due to the relatively small area over which such management is practiced. The management of water levels potentially has large effects on provision of several services and there does appear to be some scope to align this objective with biodiversity objectives. A comprehensive understanding of the net costs and benefits to society of these interventions will require fine-grained research integrating ecological, economic and social science research. However, a less analytic understanding of the potential costs and benefits can highlight ways by which land management principally to achieve biodiversity conservation objectives might be modified to enhance delivery of other ecosystem services.


Ecosystem services Biodiversity Greenhouse gas flux Climate change mitigation Water regulation Reedbed Lowland wet grassland Ecosystem approach Wetlands Conservation 



This work was conducted during a U.K. Population Biology Network (UKPopNet) funded project (Ecosystem service delivery by real-world conservation approaches: a scoping study for a lowland wetlands). We thank Dave Raffaelli, Katie Bolt, Alistair Burn, Debbie Coldwell, Mark Crick, Rob Cunningham, Rob George, Jo Gilbert, R. Kerry Turner, Sally Mackenzie, Mark Smart, Gwyn Williams, and Simon Wotton for stimulating and helpful discussion and comments during this research project.


  1. Andam KS, Ferraro PJ et al (2010) Protected areas reduced poverty in Costa Rica and Thailand. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107(22):9996–10001PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson BJ, Armsworth PR, Eigenbrod F, Thomas CD, Gillings S, Heinemeyer H, Roy DB, Gaston KJ (2009) Spatial covariance between biodiversity and other ecosystem service priorities. J Appl Ecol 46:888–896CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andrews JE, Burgess D et al (2006) Biogeochemical value of managed realignment, Humber estuary, UK. Sci Total Environ 371(1–3):19–30PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Balmford A, Bruner A, Cooper P, Costanza R, Farber S, Green RE, Jenkins M, Jefferiss P, Jessamy V, Madden J, Munro K, Myers N, Naeem S, Paavola J, Rayment M, Rosendo S, Roughgarden J, Trumper K, Turner RK (2002) Economic reasons for conserving wild nature. Science 297:950–953PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bartlett KH, Harriss RC (1993) Review and assessment of methane emissions from wetlands. Chemosphere 26:261–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beintema AJ, Müskens GJDM (1987) Nesting success of birds breeding in Dutch grasslands. J Appl Ecol 24:743–758CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brix H, Schierup H-H, Arias CA (2007) Twenty years experience with constructed wetland systems in Denmark—what did we learn? Water Sci Technol 56(3):63–68PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bullock A, Acreman M (2003) The role of wetlands in the hydrological cycle. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 7:358–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Butchart SHM, Walpole M et al (2010) Global biodiversity: indicators of recent declines. Science 328(5982):1164–1168PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cook HF (2007) Floodplain nutrient and sediment dynamics on the Kent Stour. Water Environ J 21:173–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cooper C (2009) What can we learn from old wetlands? Lessons that have been learned and some that may have been forgotten over the past 20 years. Desalination 246:11–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Daily GC, Polasky S, Goldstein J, Kareiva PK, Mooney HA, Pejchar L, Ricketts TH, Salzman J, Shallenberger R (2009) Ecosystem services in decision making: time to deliver. Front Ecol Environ 7:21–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. DEFRA (2007) Securing a healthy natural environment: an action plan for embedding an ecosystems approach.
  14. Dobbie KE, Smith KA (2003) Nitrous oxide emission factors for agricultural soils in Great Britain: the impact of soil water-filled pore space and other controlling variables. Glob Change Biol 9:204–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eglington SM, Gill JA et al (2009) Habitat management and patterns of predation of Northern Lapwings on wet grasslands: the influence of linear habitat structures at different spatial scales. Biol Conserv 142(2):314–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Egoh B, Reyers B, Rouget M, Bode M, Richardson DM (2009) Spatial congruence between biodiversity and ecosystem services in South Africa. Biol Conserv 142:553–562CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. English Nature (2001) Sustainable flood defence: the case for washlands. No. 406 Research Report prepared for EN by Risk Policy Analysts Limited, PeterboroughGoogle Scholar
  18. English Nature (2010) Summary conditions for SSSI sites available at:
  19. Ferguson C, de Roda Husman AM, Altavilla N, Deere D, Ashbolt N (2003) Fate and transport of surface water pathogens in watersheds. Crit Rev Environ Sci Technol 33(3):299–361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gilbert G, Gibbons DW, Evans J (1998) Bird monitoring methods: a manual of techniques for key UK species. RSPB/British Trust for Ornithology, The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Institute of Terrestrial Ecology and The Seabird GroupGoogle Scholar
  21. Gilbert G, Tyler G, Smith KW (2005) Behaviour, home range size and habitat use by male Great Bittern Botaurus stellaris in Britain. Ibis 147:533–543CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gilbert G, Tyler GA, Dunn CJ, Ratcliffe N, Smith KW (2007) The influence of habitat management on the breeding success of the Great Bittern Botaurus stellaris in Britain. Ibis 149:53–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Green RE (1996) Factors affecting the population density of the corncrake Crex crex in Britain and Ireland. J Appl Ecol 33:237–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hansson LA, Bronmark C, Nilsson PA, Bjornsson KA (2005) Conflicting demands on wetland ecosystem services: nutrient retention, biodiversity or both. Freshw Biol 50:705–714CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Harrison PA (2010) Ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation: an introduction to the RUBICODE project. Biodivers Conserv (OnlineFirst). doi: 10.1007/s10531-010-9905-y
  26. Hess TM, Holman IP, Rose SC, Rosolova Z, Parrott A (2010) Estimating the impact of rural land management changes on catchment runoff generation in England and Wales. Hydrol Proc. doi: 10.1002/hyp.7598
  27. Holman IP, Hollis JM, Bramley ME, Thompson TRE (2003) The contribution of soil structural degradation to catchment flooding: a preliminary investigation of the 2000 floods in England and Wales. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 7(5):754–765CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Houghton JT, Filho LGM, Callander BA, Harris N, Kattenburg A, Maskell K (1995) The science of climate change: contribution of working group I to the second assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 584 ppGoogle Scholar
  29. Jarvie HP, Withers PA, Hodgkinson R, Bates A, Neal M, Wickham HD, Harman SA, Armstrong L (2008) Influence of rural land use on streamwater nutrients and their ecological significance. J Hydrol 350:166–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Millennium Assessment (2005) Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  31. Morris J, Hess TM, Gowing DJ, Leeds-Harrison PB, Bannister N, Wade M, Vivash RM (2004) Integrated washland management for flood defence and biodiversity. Report to Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs & English Nature. Cranfield University at Silsoe, Bedfordshire, UK, March 2004Google Scholar
  32. Morris J, Bailey AP, Lawson CS, Leeds-Harrison PB, Alsop D, Vivash R (2008) The economic dimensions of integrating flood management and agri-environment through washland creation: a case study from Somerset, England. J Environ Manag 88:373–381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Naidoo R, Balmford A, Costanza R, Fisher B, Green RE, Lehner B, Malcolm TR, Ricketts TH (2008) Global mapping of ecosystem services and conservation priorities. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105: 9495–9500Google Scholar
  34. Nelson E, Mendoza G, Regetz J, Polasky S, Tallis H, Cameron DR, Chan KMA, Daily GC, Goldstein J, Kareiva PM, Lonsdorf E, Naidoo R, Ricketts TH, Shaw MR (2009) Modeling multiple ecosystem services, biodiversity conservation, commodity production, and tradeoffs at landscape scales. Front Ecol Environ 7:4–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. O’Brien M, Smith KW (1992) Changes in the status of waders breeding on wet lowland grasslands in England and Wales between 1982 and 1989. Bird Study 39:165–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. O’Connell PE, Beven KJ, Carney JN, Clements RO, Ewen J, Fowler H, Harris GL, Hollis J, O’Donnell GM, Packman JC, Parkin A, Quinn PF, Rose SC, Shepherd M, Tellier S (2004) Review of impacts of rural land management on flood generation. Impact Study Report. Defra R&D Technical Report FD2114/TR. Defra, LondonGoogle Scholar
  37. Peacock CE, Hess TM (2004) Estimating evapotranspiration from a reed bed using the Bowen ratio energy balance method. Hydrol Process 18:247–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Posthumus H, Rouquette JR, Morris J, Gowing DJG, Hess TM (2010) A framework for the assessment of ecosystem goods and services; a case study on lowland floodplains in England. Ecol Econ 69:1510–1523CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ratcliffe N, Schmitt S, Whiffin M (2005) Sink or swim? Viability of a black-tailed godwit population in relation to flooding. J Appl Ecol 42:834–843CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Redford KH, Adams WM (2009) Payments for ecosystem services and the challenge of saving nature. Conserv Biol 23:785–787PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rey Benayas JM, Newton AC, Diaz A, Bullock JM (2009) Enhancement of biodiversity and ecosystem services by ecological restoration: a meta-analysis. Science 325:1121–1124PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rhymer CM, Robinson RA, Smart J, Whittingham MJ (2010) Can ecosystem services be integrated with conservation? A case study of breeding waders on grassland. Ibis 152:698–712CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rodrigues ASL (2006) Are global conservation efforts successful? Science 313:1051–1052PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. RSPB (2009) Naturally, at your service: Why it pays to invest in nature. RSPB, SandyGoogle Scholar
  45. Smart J, Gill JA et al (2006) Grassland-breeding waders: identifying key habitat requirements for management. J Appl Ecol 43(3):454–463CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Smart J, Amar A et al (2008) Changing land management of lowland wet grasslands of the UK: impacts on snipe abundance and habitat quality. Anim Conserv 11(4):339–351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Smith KA, Ball T, Conen F, Dobbie KE, Massheder J, Rey A (2003) Exchange of greenhouse gases between soils and atmosphere: interactions of soil physical factors and biological processes. Eur J Soil Sci 54:779–791CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Tyler GA, Smith KW, Burgess DJ (1998) Reedbed management and breeding Bitterns Botaurus stellaris in the UK. Biol Conserv 86:257–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Turner RK, Daily GC (2008) The ecosystem services framework and natural capital conservation. Environ Resour Econ 39:25–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Turner RK, Paavola J, Cooper P, Farber S, Jessamy V, Georgiou S (2003) Valuing nature: lessons learned and future research directions. Ecol Econ 46:493–510CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Turner RK, van den Bergh JCJM, Soderqvist T, Barendregt A, van der Straaten J, Maltby E, van Ierland EC (2000) Ecological-economic analysis of wetlands: scientific integration for management and policy. Ecol Econ 35:7–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Van der Vliet RE, Schuller E, Wassen J (2008) Avian predators in a meadow landscape: consequences of their occurrence for breeding open-area birds. J Avian Biol 39:523–529CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Vymazal J (2007) Removal of nutrients in various types of constructed wetlands. Sci Tot Environ 380:48–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Whiting GJ, Chanton JP (2001) Greenhouse carbon balance of wetlands: methane emission versus carbon sequestration. Tellus 53B:521–528Google Scholar
  55. Wilcove DS (2008) No way home: the decline of the world’s great animal migrations. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  56. Wilcove DS, Rothstein D et al (1998) Quantifying threats to imperiled species in the United States. Bioscience 48(8):607–615CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wilson AM, Vickery JA, Brown A, Langston RHW, Smallshire D, Wotton S, Vanhinsbergh D (2005) Changes in the numbers of breeding waders on lowland wet grasslands in England and Wales between 1982 and 2000. Bird Study 52:55–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wilson A, Vickery J, Pendlebury C (2007) Agri-environment schemes as a tool for reversing declining populations of grassland waders: mixed benefits from Environmentally Sensitive Areas in England. Biol Conserv 136:128–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Withers PJA, Sharpley AN (2008) Characterization and apportionment of nutrient and sediment sources in catchments. J Hydrol 350:127–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wotton S, Brown A, Burn A, Cunningham R, Dodd A, Droy N, Gilbert G, Rees S, White G, Gregory R (2009) Boom or bust—a sustainable future for reedbeds and Bitterns? Br Wildl 20:305–315Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brendan Fisher
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Richard B. Bradbury
    • 2
  • Julian E. Andrews
    • 3
  • Malcolm Ausden
    • 2
  • Stephanie Bentham-Green
    • 3
  • Sue M. White
    • 4
  • Jennifer A. Gill
    • 5
  1. 1.Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International AffairsPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  2. 2.Royal Society for the Protection of BirdsSandyUK
  3. 3.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  4. 4.School of Applied SciencesCranfield UniversityBedfordUK
  5. 5.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK

Personalised recommendations