Natural England - National biodiversity climate change vulnerability model

National biodiversity climate change vulnerability model

The national biodiversity climate change vulnerability model (NBCCVM) is a practical way to identify areas of habitat most at risk from climate change. It will provide a focus for discussion, helping to develop shared priorities and inform decisions on where to focus our efforts.

Background

Natural England has developed a model that provides an assessment of the vulnerability of priority habitats to climate change based on principles of adaptation for biodiversity.

It provides a high level indication of the relative vulnerability of priority habitats to climate change in different places. It identifies why areas are vulnerable and which possible interventions can have the biggest impact in increasing resilience to the changing climate. 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, some of whom helped us trial the approach and outputs.

There are three elements to our approach to assessing the vulnerability of priority habitats:

The National biodiversity climate change vulnerability model

The national biodiversity climate change vulnerability model (NBCCVM) is a practical approach to identifying areas of habitat most at risk from climate change. It will provide a focus for discussion, helping to develop shared priorities and inform decisions on where to focus our efforts.

The NBCCVM uses a 200m x 200m GIS grid model to assess priority habitats for their:

  • Sensitivity to climate change - this element assigns high, medium or low sensitivity to direct climate change impact to priority habitats on the basis of expert judgement and scientific literature (developed from Mitchell et al 2007external link).
  • Adaptive Capacity - addressing elements of habitat fragmentation, including measures of aggregation of same habitat and land cover in the surrounding landscape, topographic variety across habitats and the wider landscape and current management applications and condition indicators that address current sources of harm for each habitat.
  • Conservation Value - this assigns a relative value indicating if grid squares contain priority habitat only, priority habitat within a national designation or priority habitat within an international designation, with the latter valued highest.

The rationale underpinning the approach has been largely based on the UK Biodiversity Partnership principles  for biodiversity adaptation to climate changeexternal link (Hopkins et al 2007).

National biodiversity climate change vulnerability assessment

South coast vulnerability thumbnail map

Click map to see
larger version (PDF)

The Sensitivity and Adaptive Capacity elements described above can then be added together to produce an overall national biodiversity climate change vulnerability assessment (NBCCVA). Combining this with the Conservation Value element can be an aid to the prioritisation of action. Key NBCCVA outputs are maps showing the metric results and the range of relative vulnerability across the country, giving a visual representation of the areas of habitat vulnerable to climate change.

The map on the right is an example output from the NBCCVA:

National biodiversity climate change vulnerability assessment tool

Through developing the NBCCVM approach we have created a tool, the national biodiversity climate change vulnerability assessment tool, that enables us to re-run assessments of vulnerability, easily update data, make changes to the weightings of the metrics used within the assessment and to test habitat creation and management scenarios, increasing the functionality and flexibility of the approach.

Uses of the NBCCVA

To test the usefulness of the NBCCVM approach and NBCCVA outputs for our partners we conducted a series of trials with Local Authorities and Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs). This trialling period enabled us to amend the products and documentation to better suit our partners and enhance the functionality of the NBCCVA tool.

National scale GIS outputs that will help prioritise adaptation action have been developed to assist Natural England and our partners target measures to build biodiversity resilience. The priorities highlighted within Making Space for Natureexternal link (Lawton et al 2010) provide a useful framework for producing GIS outputs that will help us address climate change vulnerability and help deliver adaptation action. GIS outputs can help prioritise action on the Lawton Review priorities of better habitat management, bigger patches of habitat and joined up networks of habitat.

We have discussed with a range of partners, how the results and derived GIS outputs could be used. Potential uses include informing Local Plans, climate change or green infrastructure strategies, protected landscape planning and informing ecological network planning. Furthermore, the NBCCVA will help us to:

  • Input to spatial targeting projects across Natural England, e.g. targeting for the New Environmental Land Management Scheme and Biodiversity 2020 targets.
  • Input to work with partners such as National Parks and Local Authorities and other local partnerships 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.

Further information

For further information contact Sarah Taylor on sarah.taylor@naturalengland.org.uk or 0300 060 3922.