New woodland habitat network mapping by TVERC

TVERC Woodland Habitat network map for Berkshire and Oxfordshire
TVERC habitat connectivity mapping

Habitat connectivity in the Thames Valley – by Dan Carpenter, Projects Manager, Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre.

One of the key challenges for nature conservation is to address the fragmentation and isolation of patches of habitat. Connectivity is one of John Lawton's four key principles for protecting and enhancing biodiversity in the British landscape - more joined. At the Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre we use our data to provide the evidence base to help support decisions on nature conservation in Berkshire and Oxfordshire.
In planning conservation activities it is necessary to answer these questions: what habitats to create or restore; how much; and, crucially, where. Understanding how well connected habitats are is crucial for helping to decide where new habitats should be created or where habitat restoration will have the greatest benefit.
I have used TVERC's detailed habitat mapping of Berkshire and Oxfordshire to model habitat connectivity for the key habitats in the region. I have taken a cost distance approach, following Roger Catchpole's work, to model habitat connectivity for woodlands, grasslands, wetlands and heathland/acid grassland mosaics. This uses values for the ecological energetic costs of a typical species in moving through the landscape. The output of the model is essentially a measure of the permeability of the landscape to species from each habitat.
The figure shown here is the output from the woodland habitat connectivity model. It shows that in Berkshire the landscape is well connected for woodland species. The woodland in Berkshire is found throughout the landscape, often in small patches. There is a clear band through the vale of Oxfordshire where woodland connectivity is poor, and there is very little woodland in this landscape. The north of Oxfordshire also shows that woodland is generally well connected, despite areas, particularly in the north of the county, that are not well wooded.
This information, in combination with information on the landscape character, hydrology, soils and others, should be used to help plan where woodland creation would have the greatest benefit for improving the ability of woodland species to move through the landscape. The model has also been produced in greater detail at more local scales (e.g. district or unitary authority). I will share further outputs from this work in other posts.

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Posted: January 22, 2018