Habitat Network

Our landscape is made up of many different habitats that together can support wildlife, people’s wellbeing, and our ecosystem services*. The key to making these habitats function in the best possible way is to ensure they link together across the landscape – this is what we mean by a habitat or nature network. 

We all have a role to play in tackling the biodiversity and climate crisis, whether in rural or urban settings, and whether working at the garden, farm, development, city or landscape-scale. We believe that promoting opportunities to deliver Scotland’s Nature Network at a regional scale, such as the Inner Forth, will empower land managers, decision makers, organisations and businesses to take effective action. With other stakeholders, we have mapped an Inner Forth Habitat Network and produced a call-to-action. 

The Inner Forth Habitat Network Concept Maps (East) and (West) & User Guide (40Mb) shows existing and potential areas for the five key habitat types that have been identified (wetland & rivers, peatland & heathland, intertidal, grassland and open mosaic habitat, woodland). These locations were identified through a 2018-2019 Pilot project described below and we hope that practitioners can use the maps to inform their work. The User Guide describes how to use the map to find where the conservation, restoration and management of an existing habitat is the priority for the coherence of the habitat network, and includes an Opportunity Network, which is places where there are the best opportunities to strengthen the habitat network.

The Inner Forth Habitat Network Call to Action is an evolving document, and will be revised and updated to reflect achievements and opportunities as they arise. The Inner Forth Futures Natural Heritage Working Group are taking this work forward. The document was last updated in October 2020.

Ecological Coherence: A Practitioners’ Guide explains how we created the network and aims to help other decision makers, such as local authorities, statutory bodies like NatureScot and SEPA, and conservation organisations or land owners and managers, to identify where best to carry out habitat management and creation work to make the most of their potential to improve biodiversity, people’s well-being, and their economic and environmental benefits.

In 2020-21 we recieved funding from NatureScot through the Biodiversity Challenge Fund to undertake wetland works at four sites around the Inner Forth: Bothkennar Pools (Falkirk Council), Buther Wetlands (Fife Council), Carron Dams Local Nature Reserve (Scottish Wildlife Trust), Kildean Wetlands (Stirling Council). This work emerged from the Inner Forth Habitat Network mapping and identification of wetland enhancement opportunities. Read the final report of the 2020-21 activity here (link to be added). 

How did the Inner Forth Habitat Network Mapping and Call to Action arise?

Between 2014-2019 a project called EcoCo, supported through the LIFE+ financial instrument of the European Community, funded a range of habitat creation and improvement work to help join up nature across Central Scotland. As part of the project they developed what they called an ‘ecological coherence protocol’ to identify the best places to carry out work to maximise benefits for biodiversity and ecosystem services, both during their project and into the future. Having created and used the protocol, they needed to review and refine it to check it worked as they hoped it would across a wider range of habitats, to make it as easy as possible to use in other regions. The protocol is intended as a practical tool to help decision-makers at all levels to choose where best to invest in habitat improvement, restoration and creation, to connect habitats together, and deliver wider eco-system and socio-economic benefits. 

In autumn 2018 Inner Forth Futures and Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust were commissioned by EcoCo to refine and revise the ecological coherence protocol through the Inner Forth Habitat Network Pilot and CSGN B-Lines Project. Both projects used the protocol to work with staff from a wide range of organisations, including local authorities, statutory bodies and conservation organisations.

The Inner Forth Futures partners used their strong knowledge base to pilot partnership approaches to defining and developing a habitat network for the Central Scotland Green Network areas within Stirling, Falkirk, Clackmannanshire and Fife local authorities. The Pilot identified five key habitat types in the area: woodland; rivers and wetland; intertidal; peatland and heathland; and grassland and open mosaic habitat.

IFF ran three workshops inviting a range of organisations to share their local knowledge and expertise to develop the habitat network. They did this by looking at the three key elements of the ecological coherence protocol in a specific order: habitat networks, then ecosystem services and lastly opportunity areas. Each meeting built on the last by reviewing knowledge and existing data using a series of maps of the Inner Forth landscape, before a final, mapped vision was produced.

You can read about the process in detail by downloading Ecological Coherence: A Practitioners’ Guide, and Reviewing & Refining an Ecological Coherence Protocol using the Inner Forth Habitat Network Pilot & CSGN B-Lines (40Mb), which were produced following the workshops.

The results

Ecological Coherence: A Practitioners’ Guide explains the refined ecological coherence protocol, using the Inner Forth Habitat Network Pilot as a case study. It aims to help other decision makers, such as local authorities, statutory bodies like SNH (NatureScot from May 2020) and SEPA, and conservation organisations or land owners and managers, to identify where best to carry out habitat management and creation work to make the most of their potential to improve biodiversity, people’s well-being, and their economic and environmental benefits.

Reviewing & Refining an Ecological Coherence Protocol using the Inner Forth Habitat Network Pilot & CSGN B-Lines explains the process that the two projects followed to refine and revise the EcoCo protocol, and suggests future uses for the ecological coherence approach in Scotland.

The Inner Forth Habitat Network Concept Maps (East) and (West) & User Guide (40Mb) show what and where existing and potential habitat areas were identified across the Pilot area, where the data was sourced and how practitioners can use the mapped concept to inform their work. The User Guide describes how to use the map to find where the conservation, restoration and management of an existing habitat is the priority for the coherence of the habitat network, and includes an Opportunity Network, which is places where there are the best opportunities to strengthen the habitat network.

The Inner Forth Habitat Network Pilot Report explains the whole process in detail and includes the draft Call to Action. The call-to-action is an evolving document, and will be revised and updated to reflect achievements and opportunities as they arise. The Inner Forth Futures Natural Heritage Working Group are taking this work forward.

What next?

We will be updating this page with new information as we become aware of it. In tandem with this work other projects are contributing to a habitat network across the Inner Forth landscape, Scotland and more widely. These include:

ESCom 2020 workshop: Scotland's National Ecological Network - progress and practicalities (The workshop presentations can be found on the OPPLA.eu website)

Buglife’s B-Lines project

Green Action Trust

ScotLink: A Roadmap for adopting a National Ecological Network for Scotland (2017)

Scotland's Environment Web: Landscape-scale Conservation

Ulster Wildlife Trust: Nature Recovery Networks Northern Ireland

Download the resources:

*The way in which natural habitats provide the things we need to survive – clean water, clean air, energy, flood prevention and carbon capture, for example.

This work was supported by a contribution of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Community delivered as part of the EcoCo LIFE project:  LIFE13 BIO/UK/000428

Google+