The vulnerability of broad vegetation community types to climate and land use change within Northumberland National Park

Ovens, Christopher (2015) The vulnerability of broad vegetation community types to climate and land use change within Northumberland National Park. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Future climate and land use change are predicted to have a concomitant impact on ecological communities. Some sources have proposed that at global scales, and for particular regions, land use change will have a greater impact than changes in climate. This research aimed to test this assertion for the semi-natural landscape of Northumberland National Park (NNP) in the north east of England.

The methodology applied a simple habitat suitability model to simulate changes in the distribution of relevant vegetation communities through changes in land use occurring under two future land use scenarios formulated for the study area. Appropriate landscape metrics were then applied to the results to gauge how the associated changes in patch characteristics impacted on the sensitivity and adaptive capacity of the communities. A relatively simple bioclimatic envelope model was also applied to the results of the land use modelling to estimate the sensitivity of vegetation communities to changes in climate predicted under the UKCP09 Medium emissions scenario. Together the applied measures offer a simple and accessible method for estimating the current and future vulnerability of Broad Vegetation Communities (BVCs) within the study area.

Results were analysed at the landscape level for NNP, as well as the five National Character Areas (NCAs), which wholly or partially coincide with its area. Class level results were analysed for nine Priority Broad Vegetation Communities (PBVCs) for NNP and each of the NCAs. Overall the results strongly suggest that the climate changes predicted to affect the park in the future are likely to have a notably greater impact on the vulnerability of the PBVCs than the simulated changes in land use. Landscape level results suggest that vulnerability is likely to be notably reduced in the future under both land use scenarios. This is due the majority of PBVCs exhibiting significant reductions in overall vulnerability in the future, largely due to significant reductions in their levels of climate stress. However, two PBVCs (Blanket Bog and Raised Bog) exhibited considerable increases in vulnerability, due to the increases in the climate stress that they experience. These PBVCs may be regarded as a potential focus for future conservation efforts.

The approach adopted within this research has allowed a number of relevant management recommendations to be made for NNP and for individual PBVCs and NCAs. PBVCs most at risk have been identified and relevant causes investigated. The characteristics of the methodology (simplicity, accessibility, robustness) mean that it provides a useful framework for providing meaningful vulnerability assessments for whole ecological communities across entire landscapes with comparative ease and speed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: ecological modelling, bioclimatic envelopes
Subjects: F800 Physical and Terrestrial Geographical and Environmental Sciences
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Geography and Environmental Sciences
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
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Depositing User: Ay Okpokam
Date Deposited: 21 Aug 2015 13:20
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 23:08

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