Priority habitats and networks
Our approach to priority habitats has been influenced by Making Space for Nature (Lawton 2010) which called for ‘more, bigger, better and more joined-up’ places for nature.
The starting point in our Biodiversity Action Plan is to know what we have got – the extent, condition and locations of priority habitats.
We then need to protect these sites and through conservation management bring them into better condition.
We also need to extend what we have, create new areas of priority habitat , and use corridors of connecting habitat to link priority habitat sites in a network across the borough and beyond.
This helps the movement of wildlife species to avoid threats, extend their range, and maintain or increase their numbers.
Our analysis needs to indicate where appropriate conditions exist to support habitat creation and/or restoration and highlight where habitat conservation priorities may be targeted.
Information to help achieve these objectives includes:
Local examples of this approach include projects within the NIA, the work of the RSPB and the Garganey Trust in the lower Dearne Valley, and continued work by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust with Barnsley Council.
The Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust has a similar approach in a project for the river Don Valley reaching to the border with Barnsley.
The South Yorkshire Nature Partnership is considering mapping this approach on a wider scale.
*Nature Recovery Network. A key action in the Government’s 25 Year Environmental Plan (2018) is establishing a Nature Recovery Network. This is to protect and restore wildlife, as well as providing greater public enjoyment of the countryside; increased carbon capture; and improvements in water quality and flood management.
*Nature Networks. Natural England published guidance in March 2020 on the design of nature networks and evidence for their implementation.
Priority actions include
*MAGIC information on potential habitat creation, restoration, and enhancement.
In addition to the mapping information on Priority (primary) habitats and Associated habitats, the MAGIC system identifies places where ‘Habitat Creation or Restoration’ is underway and ‘Restorable Habitat', where degraded habitat or fragments of the primary habitat exist and where restoration to priority habitat may be possible.
It also identifies Network Enhancement and Expansion Zones near existing priority habitat
Network Enhancement Zones identify land that may be suitable for (1) habitat re-creation of the nearby habitat or for (2) the creation of other types of habitat, enhancement of land management and suitable green infrastructure where habitat re-creation is not possible.
Network Expansion Zones identify land close to Network Enhancement Zones that is more likely to be suitable for particular habitat creation and where possible locations for connecting and linking up networks across a landscape may be identified.
Fragmentation Action Zones. The mapping also identifies land immediately adjoining existing habitat patches where habitat creation is likely to help reduce the effects of habitat fragmentation.