GIS Scales up Defra’s Biodiversity Metric

TEP assess the biodiversity levels of Greater Manchester

Last week the Landscape Institute hosted its annual awards ceremony, which is all about celebrating people, place and nature, and the myriad ways that landscape projects can connect them. This year, TEP’s GIS Team entered their Greening Greater Manchester project, which was shortlisted in the Landscape Innovation category. TEP’s Greening Greater Manchester project was an independent research project, which investigated the potential application of the Biodiversity Metric at scale, using GIS.

Greater Manchester was selected as a study area due to its rich diversity of habitats – from the post-industrial urban centre to the rural moorlands on the periphery. This presented a great opportunity to evaluate the project methodology across several landscape character areas. To measure the success of the project, the following objectives were identified:

  • Establish a Biodiversity Baseline of Habitats and Biodiversity Units (BU) for land parcels in Greater Manchester.
  • Estimate the BUs per District Authority, Ward and Development Allocations.
  • Utilise accessible datasets to provide a repeatable methodology.

The output of the project, the Biodiversity Baseline, was developed using Defra’s Biodiversity Metric 2.0, which was considered to be best practice for habitat assessment at the time. The fine spatial resolution of the parcels (approximately the size of a road verge) provides a high level of detail in the baseline. The combination of best practice data, which also has a high level of detail, means that the Baseline has a high level of utility by the various organisations involved in the delivery of BNG, such as:

  • Council planners can use it to identify the most valuable habitats to protect and opportunities for enhancement through the Local Nature Recovery Strategies.
  • Developers can use it to evaluate the potential impacts of proposals to begin discussions to secure offsetting sites.
  • Landowners can use it to identify land parcels with potential uplift in BUs and secure investment for habitat improvements.

Most strategic assessments of habitats only look to assess the quantity of habitats within a region for example how much woodland, grassland or wetland it has. However, this project also incorporated measurement of habitat quality and strategic importance within the valuation of biodiversity. Furthermore, it would be near impossible to assess the study area (131,944ha) using traditional field techniques, so this project offers a new way to assess the biodiversity in the region without extensive survey work.

The methodology to produce the Biodiversity Baseline for Greater Manchester utilised Ordnance Survey (OS) and open-source datasets in a repeatable process. This project presents an ‘off the shelf’ process that could be repeated in different locations, or overtime to monitor change, without the need for bespoke or expensive source datasets.

The Biodiversity Baseline produced for this project provides strategic planners in Greater Manchester with the key quantitative information they require to protect and enhance biodiversity in the region, such as:

  • The composition and distribution of habitats and BUs
  • The most valuable habitats in the region
  • Demand for BUs from known development sites
  • Areas of opportunity for BU increases.

On the global stage, this project contributes towards UN Sustainable Development Goals 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), 13 (Climate Action) and 15 (Life on Land).

Through the provision of a quantitative baseline of biodiversity, it is possible to ensure that interventions and developments have a measurable positive impact on habitats, increasing the sustainability of urban development.

Biodiversity underpins all of the Ecosystem Services which the natural environment provides, including carbon sequestration and urban cooling. Through the measurement of biodiversity, it is possible to protect these services and mitigate or adapt to the impact of climate change.

The Biodiversity Baseline for Greater Manchester provides landscape planners with the evidence base required to protect valuable habitats in the region and identify those which have the opportunity for enhancement.

Although this was an independent research piece completed by TEP, various organisations were consulted throughout the project to ensure that the methodology developed aligned with best practice for habitat assessment and that the outputs were usable by decision-makers. We would like to thank Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Greater Manchester Ecological Unit and Natural England along with the project team for their contributions, without which the project wouldn’t have been a success.

If you would like to learn more about the project, we published our research online, which you can read here:

From Grey to Green – Biodiversity in Greater Manchester

Development and Biodiversity in Greater Manchester

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