Prescribed burning impacts on ecosystem services in the British uplands: a methodological critique of the EMBER project.

Published online
22 Nov 2020
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Ashby, M. A. & Heinemeyer, A.
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Due to its novelty and scale, the EMBER project is a key study within the prescribed burning evidence base. However, it has several significant but overlooked methodological flaws. In this paper, we outline and discuss these flaws. In doing so, we aim to highlight the current paucity of evidence relating to prescribed burning impacts on ecosystem services within the British uplands. We show that the results of the EMBER project are currently unreliable because: it used a correlative space-for-time approach; treatments were located within geographically separate and environmentally distinct sites; environmental differences between sites and treatments were not accounted for during statistical analysis; and, peat surface temperature results are suggestive of measurement error. Policy Implications. Given the importance of the EMBER project, our findings suggest that (a) government agencies and policymakers need to re-examine the strengths and limitations of the prescribed burning evidence base; and, (b) future work needs to control for site-specific differences so that prescribed burning impacts on ecosystem services can be reliably identified.

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