The story so far ...
An assessment of the vulnerability of biodiversity to climate change at a large scale was piloted in the South East region between 2009 and 2011. The methodology uses a 200m2 GIS grid model to assess Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) habitats for their:
conservation value; this scores each square in the model depending on whether it contains BAP habitat only, BAP habitat and a national designation or BAP habitat and an international designation, with the latter scoring highest.
sensitivity to climate change; this element of the model assigns high, medium or low sensitivity to direct climate change impact classifications to each BAP habitat for use within the vulnerability analysis.
adaptive capacity metrics; these address elements of structural habitat connectivity, including measures of proximity of same habitat and permeability of surrounding landscape, topographic variety across habitats and permeable land and management applications that address current sources of harm for each habitat.
The rationale underpinning the inclusion of the above metrics and the measures used to provide these metrics has been largely based on the Defra principles for biodiversity adaptation to climate change (Hopkins et al 2007).
The model provides a high level indication of the relative vulnerability of BAP habitats to climate change in different places. This will inform prioritisation of adaptation action and assist in the development of adaptation strategies for biodiversity both within Natural England and with our partners.
* This is a preliminary visual representation only, taken from the biodiversity climate change vulnerability model pilot project carried out in the South East. It is not for use in decision making in this form as the project is currently under development. Up to date results from the model and derived GIS layers will be available for use in 2012.
It not only indicates current vulnerability but is also able to identify those areas in which intervention can potentially have the biggest impact in increasing resilience to the changing climate.
The model has been developed to ensure it is simple and straightforward for both internal and external stakeholders to understand. The elements of the model, the rationale behind their inclusion and how they are brought together is simple and easily understandable. Feedback to date from partners is that they understand both the approach and its potential application to their work.
This model is part of a suite of work by the climate change community within Natural England that has been developed to assess climate change vulnerability. For example the development of the South East pilot learnt from an approach to assessing vulnerability developed at a national scale (Catchpole 2010). We have also been working on assessments of vulnerability and adaptation options at a National Character Area (NCA) scale.
We are currently working on phase 2 of the project, including the following developments:
Production of a national scale model
GIS layers that will help prioritise adaptation action
We are carrying out a national roll out of the climate change vulnerability grid model. This will provide a national tool for use across the organisation and with our partners. Once this roll out is complete we will create GIS layers for use at a national scale.
GIS layers will allow the use of the climate change vulnerability model to help prioritise adaptation action on the ground. They will be aligned with the priorities highlighted within the Lawton Review (Making Space for Nature) to allow our partners to address these actions and help deliver actions within the Natural Environment White Paper. The GIS layers will help prioritise action on the following:
Better management – this will use the model to prioritise action on managing habitats to reduce current sources of harm and increase resilience to climate change.
Bigger areas of habitat – this will highlight priorities for increasing habitat size.
More joined up networks – this will give priorities for joining up fragmented habitats.
We have also discussed with our partners, such as the Environment Agency, Local Authorities, Protected Landscapes, Local Nature Partnerships and Wildlife Trusts, how the model results and derived GIS tools could be used. Potential uses include informing local development documents, climate change or green infrastructure strategies, AONB and National Park management plans and informing habitat creation and management targets. The GIS tools will be designed and tested within Natural England and with pilot area partners.
This second phase of the project will allow the national biodiversity climate change vulnerability model to:
Input to spatial targeting projects across Natural England, for example, targeting Environmental Stewardship agreements through the Holdings Assessment Toolkit and targeting Green Infrastructure provision.
Input to work with Local Authorities and other local partners to secure new priority habitat and Green Infrastructure, delivering ecosystem services through the planning system.
Assist our work in supporting local partnerships in setting integrated landscape and biodiversity objectives and promote restoration of ecological networks at landscape scale.
For further information please contact Sarah Taylor on email@example.com or 0300 060 3922.