From Ecological Informatics to the Generation of Ecological Knowledge: Long-Term Research in the English Lake District
Lakes are highly connected systems that are affected by a hierarchy of stressors operating at different scales, making them particularly sensitive to anthropogenic perturbation. Traditionally, lakes are studied as a whole system ‘from physics to fish’ and long-term monitoring programmes were initiated on this basis, some starting over a century ago. This chapter describes the long-term monitoring programme on the Cumbrian lakes, UK, how it is operated and how its scientific value is increased by combining it with additional activities. Case-studies are presented on the advances long-term research has made to testing ecological theory and understanding teleconnexions and phenology. Automatic high-frequency measurements are an important complementary approach that has been made possible by technological revolutions in computing, and telecommunications. They provide a window into the true dynamic nature of lakes that cannot be achieved by manual sampling. The large volume of data produced can now be quality controlled and analysed by bespoke software that has been developed in recent years by a global network of lake and data scientists. Finally, lake models constructed using the insights from monitoring, as well as experiments, are powerful ways to identify knowledge gaps and allow forecasts to be made of future responses to environmental change or management intervention. As other approaches become incorporated into lake research, such as Earth Observation and citizen science, the scale of knowledge about the system will increase, improving our ability to provide robust scientific advice for the sustainable management of these fragile, but important ecosystems.
We are grateful to the many individuals (too numerous to name here) who have participated in collecting the data and to the Freshwater Biological Association for its invaluable historical role in the production of the early long-term data. We dedicate this chapter to the late JWG Lund (1912–2015) and ED Le Cren (1922–2011) who were instrumental in starting much of the long-term research in Cumbria. This research, carried out today by CEH, is supported by the UK Natural Environment Research Council.
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