Integrated Wetland Network


Historic habitat loss and degradation means that only a small fraction of natural wetland and woodland habitats now remain in northwest England, and networks of these key habitats are significantly fragmented, which can disrupt species dispersal and reduce the ecological function of remaining habitat patches. Providing bigger, better and more connected habitat networks will be vital for nature recovery in the face of climate change and other threats to biodiversity, and will also provide a range of natural capital benefits relevant to Natural Course, such as improved water quality and resilience against flooding. Our ecological network tool aims to identify key areas for habitat restoration and creation that will benefit both habitat connectivity and species dispersal, and our communities through improvements in water quality and flood risk mitigation.

What we are doing

 This Natural Course funded project is addressing this problem using a multi-pronged approach:

  • Using habitat distribution modelling to identify areas where soil conditions are appropriate for creation of semi-natural wetland and wet woodland habitats
  • Using the software Condatis, developed by Liverpool University, to model habitat connectivity and identify bottlenecks in our wetland and woodland habitat networks.

These two approaches allow areas for habitat creation and restoration to be identified, with appropriate management actions recommend.  The modelling work is combined with other data – for example, Environment Agency Communities at Risk data – to identify where the actions can have maximum natural capital benefits.

Who else is involved?

Liverpool University (who developed the Condatis software and advised on its application to the ecological network modelling), the Environment Agency (discussions around where habitat creation and restoration projects can have maximum benefit in terms of Water Framework Directive and flood risk) the Wildlife Trusts and woodland partners (discussing opportunities for woodland creation that would provide maximum natural capital benefits).

Project location

The ecological network tool will highlight habitat restoration and creation opportunities in Cheshire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Lancashire.

Latest update

The ecological network tool has been completed and data shared with key partners.

Engagement with partners and stakeholders around the initial findings and future utility of the network tool is ongoing and will continue throughout the project, including discussions with local authorities to enable model outputs to be embedded into planning policy.