Gloucestershire Nature Map
The Gloucestershire Nature Map is a strategic approach to showing the best places to maintain and extend terrestrial habitats at a county scale. It is a refined version of the South West Nature Map and is a detailed local vision for natural environment change. Gloucestershire Nature Map offers a spatial tool for identifying where action to benefit biodiversity should occur. The mapping is based on the inclusion of selected areas of value sitting within locations where the natural environment could be enhanced or restored. It does not include every area of importance for biodiversity such as designated sites, protected landscapes and priority habitats but it has taken the distribution of these into account.
Why Strategic Nature Areas (SNAs)?
Today our Priority Habitats are a mere remnant of their former extent, existing as isolated havens in a fragmented landscape, in which many species struggle to survive. While much has been achieved much more needs to be done as our Priority Habitats are still in decline through loss and fragmentation, inappropriate management, environmental pollution, and a range of other pressures such as climate change. Larger, good quality and connected habitats are vital to reverse this decline.
In addition, the long-term survival of species populations at a landscape-scale is dependent on three connected factors: habitat patch size, the degree of isolation of patches, and habitat quality. Therefore, conservation success depends on all three of these factors being addressed.
The Gloucestershire Nature Map represents the core of an ecological network for the future. The selected landscape-scale blocks of land called Strategic Nature Areas (SNAs), show where the characteristic habitats that typify the county can be expanded and linked to help wildlife survive in an uncertain future. The SNAs can be grouped together within priority landscapes. Main rivers marked in blue on the schematic map as well as looking after existing and new strategic green infrastructure also are part of the LNP's natural environment vision.
In order to successfully conserve a viable natural environment for the future we need to take into account the ecosystems on which biodiversity and ourselves depend. Ecosystem processes such as water purification, air quality maintenance; climate regulation and flood protection are essential for life and are interconnected with our landscapes. Healthy functioning ecosystems providing significant services and goods (such as soil, food and water) from which we all benefit can only be safeguarded if we rebuild our fragmented landscape; SNAs give us a focus for action and in many cases form an important part of Nature Improvement Areas in the county.
How was Nature Map put together?
The Gloucestershire Nature Map was formed from part of the South West Nature Map and was created using the Rebuilding Biodiversity in the South West methodology. This science-based methodology provides a structured framework for the creation of a robust ecological network, spanning the county and beyond.
The first stage in the process was the identification of lead Priority Habitats which defined the landscape character of the county and which had also undergone severe fragmentation or loss locally. Natural Areas have been used to determine the selection of Priority Habitats.
The next stage was defining viable habitat structure and size which results in the following broad targets for the maintenance of habitats in an SNA.
For patch-forming habitats, the SNA composition should contain: 30% lead Priority Habitat, 30% other semi-natural habitat and 40% other land uses.
For matrix habitats, the SNA composition should contain: 60% lead Priority Habitat (plus other embedded lesser examples of semi-natural vegetation), and 40% other land uses.
The final stage of the process was to refine the candidate SNAs using local knowledge and expertise and other base maps such as geological and/or soil map data.
It is important to emphasis that SNAs do not represent a statutory designation, they simply indicate areas where there are substantial opportunities to make positive changes for biodiversity. The Gloucestershire Nature Map is a biodiversity opportunity map and no constraints or obligations are placed on land within SNAs, outside those which already have a statutory or local designation.
The Gloucestershire Nature Map should be regularly reviewed and SNA boundaries may be updated as a result of better habitat survey information becoming available. Local Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) for other Priority Habitats and Species may also be developed to highlight important target areas for conservation.
Outside an SNA
A focus on SNAs does not mean that areas outside the boundaries have no biodiversity value or that biodiversity here should not be maintained or enhanced. It is a way of showing where conservation effort and limited resources can be targeted to achieve the best outcomes for biodiversity and us.
Concentrating work on SNAs will ensure we create and maintain large viable blocks of semi-natural habitat and a more robust ecological network. Working outside SNAs, while helping to conserve local pockets of wildlife, will not deliver biodiversity conservation at the same scale as focusing effort within them.
Download the Gloucestershire Nature Map
The Gloucestershire Nature Map is in the process of being transformed into a new Nature Recovery Network (NRN) as outlined in the 25 Year Environment Plan. If you require access to the Nature Map urgently please request the data from Gloucestershire's Local Environmental Records Centre (GCER).