The primary objective of this paper is to describe the methodology that has been developed for recording data on habitats and vegetation in landscapes with a high proportion of agricultural land in order to obtain a suitable data set for modelling vegetation change. The objectives were to obtain representative data from habitats that are susceptible to change eg roadside verges and neglected land and to obtain records of as many species as possible for modelling climate change. Within these models the role of linear features in dispersal of propagules will be a key factor to be considered.
The methodology is worked out for assessing ecological resources in Estonia. The scientific importance of the research is to get valuable data about border areas and linear elements. The methodology involves rules for recording target species for example invasives, which are more and more gaining importance in Estonian flora and thus need attention in restoration and management plans.
Firstly, the construction of the Environmental Classification of all the 1 km squares in Estonia (Villoslada et al (2016) was used to select 35 dispersed random sites. (Figure 1). In each 1 km square, maps were completed of habitats using General Habitat Categories (GHCs) (Bunce et al 2008). Data involves habitat extent, condition, environmental, site and management qualifiers. Detailed sampling of vegetation is carried out in each 1 km square. Large sample units are used for getting better knowledge about variation, management, patches, fragmentation and change of habitats. The locations of the 11 vegetation plots in each square are as follows. The plots were placed in four GHCs, four on linear features and two on patches of habitats that are likely to change. Finally plots were placed in patches of invasive species as these are likely to expand further. The samples are in standardized sizes. Recording involves all vascular plants and their percentage cover.
Initial results will be presented eg 439 species were recorded which is 32 % of all species in the country which demonstrates the efficiency of the stratification because of the small sample. Over 200 plots were recorded and their characteristics and frequency described.
A key part of the modelling will be to examine the availability of niches for colonization of species. In this respect the linear features can act as corridors for dispersal as well as being sources of propagules. The results of the fieldwork of 2015. and 2016. show some change trends to features. Firstly, invasive species are found especially in linear elements such as roadsides and lines of trees. These habitat types are often related to traffic and are thus prone to changes in vegetation composition. Furthermore, the amount of bare ground gives spare room for invasives (Table 1). Secondly, neglected and abandoned patches are vulnerable to robust and vigorous invasive species as Galega orientalis, Bunias orientalis and Lupinus polyphyllus.
Villoslada, M, Bunce, RGH, Sepp, K, Jongman, RHG, Metzger, MJ, Kull, T, Raet, J, Kuusemets, V, Kull, A & Leito, A 2016, 'A framework for habitat monitoring and climate change modelling: construction and validation of the Environmental Stratification of Estonia' Regional Environmental Change. DOI: 10.1007/s10113-016-1002-7
Bunce, R.G.H., Metzger, M.J., Jongman, R.H.G., Brandt, J., de Blust, G., Elena-Rossello, R., Groom, G.B., Halada, L., Hofer, G., Howard, D.C., Kovár, P., Mücher, C.A., Padoa-Schioppa, E., Paelinx, D., Palo, A., Perez-Soba, M., Ramos, I.L., Roche, P., Skånes, H. and Wrbka, T. 2008. A standardized procedure for surveillance and monitoring European habitats and provision of spatial data. Landscape Ecology 23: 11-25.