Natural England - Long-term Monitoring Network

Long-term Monitoring Network

Species monitoring using a quadrat © Neil Sherwood / Natural England

What is the Long-term Monitoring Network?

The Long-term Monitoring Network (LTMN) is one of the ways that Natural England will understand the effects of climate change, air pollution and land management on the natural environment.

We need to understand these effects in order to advise others on mitigation or adaptation actions and to allow us to adapt our own interventions and activities.

Long-term datasets are necessary because many of the environmental processes affected are long-term and real change cannot be judged in just a few years. Annual variability in many drivers means that trends are only discernable over many years.

Long-term monitoring provides the baseline against which the future state of the environment can be assessed in a reliable historical context and it allows unanticipated changes to be identified.

This network is building on the work of the Environmental Change Networkexternal link (ECN) and earlier proposals to develop an Environmental Change Biodiversity Network (ECBN). The Long-term Monitoring Network represents England’s contribution to the UK-wide ECBN.

What will we do?

  • Establish a network of 40 core monitoring sites by 2015 (mostly on National Nature Reserves and other suitable sites with stable land management).
  • Record weather, air quality, biodiversity and land management on the core sites using standard methods.
  • Use data from other monitoring activities such as weather stations, the butterfly monitoring scheme and our own Integrated Site Assessments to maximise their value as evidence on cause and effect of environmental change.
  • Maximise efficiency benefits from adopting new approaches and working with Defra Arms Length Bodies and other partners.
  • Do more work using Natural England staff and less using contractors. This will also provide development opportunities and increase the skills of our staff.

Core sites and core site monitoring

Why have core sites?

The integration of different types of data collection across a range of sites is essential to give a high degree of confidence in the results and a high likelihood of being able to detect significant changes.

Climate change and air pollution drivers vary over time and are different in different parts of Britain. The ability to attribute change to the correct cause is important in this context. This requires good, spatially explicit data on each of the potential causes of change in order to better attribute cause to effect.

In order to meet these challenges the Long-term Monitoring Network contains core monitoring sites where an agreed range of data is collected using standard protocols. This means that all sites are collecting data on the same variables in the same way and will allow analysis and reporting from the network as a whole.

What happens at each site?

Each site collects data on the following:

  • Weather (at least hourly)
  • Air pollution - diffuse ammonia and wet (precipitation) deposition (monthly)
  • Butterflies (weekly during the flying season)
  • Birds (twice a year)
  • Vegetation (every four years)
  • Soils (every six years)
  • Land management activities (as they arise)

The pages on protocols and methods (under development) describe how these data are collected.

Data from LTMN

The data collected through the LTMN project is managed by the ECN Data Centreexternal link, run by Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH). Data from the project will be publically available through the ECN website where users can view and produce customised data summaries through interactive web pages or request raw data for analysis. LTMN data are currently in the process of being uploaded onto the ECN website.

Site information

The network had 27 operational sites in England by the end of 2013, with a further five selected and having baseline surveys being carried out in 2014. We plan on having 40 operational sites by the end of 2015.

Most core sites are on National Nature Reserves and most of these are directly managed by Natural England. In addition, some of our core sites are owned by, and monitored in partnership with other bodies, such as the National Trust, Corporation of London, Wildlife Trusts and the Forestry Commission. The current core sites are listed in the table below. More information about each of these sites can be found on the ECN website – use the interactive mapexternal link to select a site of interest and view the profile page for each LTMN site.

LTMN core sites as at the end of 2013

SiteCountySite owner / managerMain habitats (for LTMN)
Ainsdale Dunes and SandsMerseysideNatural EnglandSand dunes
East Dartmoor Woods and HeathsDevonNatural EnglandBroadleaved woodland, upland heathland
Fenn's, Whixall and Bettisfield MossesShropshireNatural England / Countryside Council for WalesRaised bog, fen
StiperstonesShropshireNatural EnglandUpland heathland
LindisfarneNorthumberlandNatural EnglandSand dunes, dune grassland
Finglandrigg WoodsCumbriaNatural EnglandBroadleaved woodland, raised bog, fen
ThursleySurreyNatural EnglandLowland heathland, valley mire, broadleaved woodland
Bure MarshesNorfolkNatural EnglandWet woodland, fen
IngleboroughYorkshireNatural EnglandUpland heathland, blanket bog
Derbyshire DalesDerbyshireNatural EnglandBroadleaved woodland, calcareous grassland
Burnham BeechesBuckinghamshireCorporation of LondonBroadleaved woodland/wood pasture, lowland heathland, valley mire
Monks WoodCambridgeshireNatural EnglandBroadleaved woodland
Old Winchester HillHampshireNatural EnglandCalcareous grassland, broadleaved woodland
Martin DownHampshireNatural EnglandCalcareous grassland
North SolentHampshireNatural EnglandLowland heathland, neutral grassland, broadleaved woodland
Lullington HeathEast SussexNatural EnglandLowland heathland, calcareous grassland
Downton GorgeHerefordshireNatural EnglandBroadleaved woodland
Malham TarnYorkshireNational Trust / Field Studies CouncilRaised bog, calcareous grassland, broadleaved woodland
Epping ForestLondon/EssexCorporation of LondonBroadleaved woodland/wood pasture, acid grassland
KielderheadNorthumberlandForestry Commission / Northumberland Wildlife TrustUpland heathland, blanket bog
Lower Derwent ValleyNorth YorkshireNatural EnglandFloodplain meadows
Saltfleetby and Theddlethorpe DunesLincolnshireNatural EnglandSand dune and saltmarsh
Chippenham FenCambridgeshireNatural EnglandReedbed and fen
Dersingham BogNorfolkNatural EnglandLowland mire and fen
The LizardCornwallNatural EnglandLowland heathland
Chobham CommonSurreySurrey Wildlife TrustLowland heathland
Ludham MarshesNorfolkNatural EnglandNeutral, wet grassland
In preparation
Woodwalton FenCambridgeshireNatural EnglandFen and woodland
Mottey MeadowsStaffordshireNatural EnglandFloodplain meadows
Wyre ForestWorcestershireNatural England and Forestry CommissionBroadleaved woodland
Dark Peak (site tbc)DerbyshireNational TrustBlanket bog
North WalneyCumbriaNatural EnglandSand dune and saltmarsh

For further information about the Long-term Monitoring Network, please email: