Ecological Network Tool


Wetland and woodland habitats across the North West River Basin District (NWRBD) are fragmented due to both historic and current land use pressures.  Habitat degradation, agricultural intensification, industrialisation and urbanisation all affect water bodies by reducing their resilience to diffuse water pollution, eutrophication and climate change.  This in turn will impact biodiversity, water quality and flood risk.

Nature-based solutions can help to alleviate these pressures and build resilience.  However, it is critical to understand where they will be of most benefit to secure ecosystem services and natural capital gains.  Unfortunately, there are very few spatial tools available in the NWRBD to support this strategic planning.

Previous work from Natural Course included the development of an Ecological Network Tool for lowland wetland and woodland habitats, covering Cheshire, South Lancashire and Greater Manchester. This tool has been used to inform local strategies and identify priorities for nature-based solutions, and acts as a proof of concept for a more comprehensive modelling approach.

What we are doing:

Building on the Ecological Network Tool, it will be extended to include upland habitat and cover the whole of the NWRBD.  This will provide robust evidence that will allow strategic identification of areas for cost-effective habitat restoration and creation and recommend the specific nature of interventions across a case study sites.

The updated Ecological Network Tool will be more spatially and ecologically comprehensive.  In case study sites (identified by broader scale modelling), the tool will be complemented by high resolution hydrological and ecological modelling, resulting in a landscape scale, catchment-based approach to the spatial planning of ecological restoration.  This can help guide land management to deliver a well-connected network of freshwater habitats and develop synergies between nature recovery and Water Framework Directive (WFD) objectives.

We will also be working with:

  • Landowners and partners to identify delivery models (including biodiversity net gain) and planning instruments (such as strategic licencing, environmental land management opportunities, and other forms of partner and project funding)
  • Local planning authorities to embed the Ecological Network Tool and recommendations in planning policy.

Who else is involved?

Natural England, landowners and partners, local planning authorities and strategic infrastructure projects.

Project location:

Across the North West River Basin District.

Latest update:

Please check back later.