The productivity of vegetation will inevitably change in response to environmental change. One of the landscapes likely to be most affected by small shifts in the climate is floodplains, because their hydrology responds to changes across the whole catchment. In turn, their hydrology drives their ecology, which is dominated by flood events, such that their ability to provide important ecosystem services including agricultural products, water-quality improvement and biodiversity conservation may alter substantially in response to a small shift in the catchment’s water balance.
Because many facors are involved in determining the productivity of the system, it is very difficult to predict or model their response to change without long runs of data to describe how they have responded to changes in the past. Such datasets are very rare. Many studies only last a few years and are unable to capture the impact of the full flood cycle. Floodplain ecosystem can be perturbed by a flood event over a pereiod of ten or tenty years. A number of datasets, some running for more than 40 years have come to light in the former Soviet Union. Their existence is barely known outside the Russian-speaking world and the data are currently not being used by climate modellers working around the globe. This project aims to build relationships with the researchers who hold these long term datasets and thence to make the data available to research groups around the world who would find them useful. To do this, the plan is to visit the researchers in Russia and Belarus to gain a precise understanding of what data they hold and how they were collected. In order to standardise the data so that they can be compared across regions, some new data will be collected in the summer of 2015 following a fixed protocol, which will allow for any discrepancies between the older methods to be accounted for. Once the data are organised and comparable, we will design a format for them to be accessed by the wider community and then stage a workshop to which leading researchers from across the UK, Europe and Russia will be invited to discuss the potential of these new data. The datasets will be summarised and presented at the workshop to drive the discussions forward.