Mapping Resilient Ecological Networks for Green Infrastructure Policy

Green Infrastructure (GI) is a strategically planned and delivered network of semi-natural habitats and green spaces which deliver multiple benefits through ecological functions and processes. These are important for wildlife, habitats and mitigating the effects of climate change. GI is also important for the communities it serves with impacts upon health and wellbeing, economic growth, investment, land regeneration and sustainability. Its design and management should also respect and enhance the character and distinctiveness of an area with regard to habitats and landscape types.

Environment Systems was commissioned to use the ‘Norfolk Living Map’ to undertake a county wide ecological connectivity analysis to support future GI policy preparation and habitat restoration efforts. The project also included the modelling and mapping of opportunities for implementing Natural Flood Management (NFM) interventions. The project partners were Norfolk County Council, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk, Great Yarmouth Borough Council, North Norfolk District Council, the Broads Authority, South Holland District Council, Breckland Council, Natural England and the Environment Agency.

Areas of native habitat that are joined together in a landscape are more resilient to changing climate or management

A Habitat Asset Register (HAR) was created from the existing ‘Norfolk Living Map’ by categorising habitats into relevant ecosystem groups of woodland, grassland & heath and wetland. Within these groups we then calculated the extent of each habitat, and, using our SENCE Ecosystem Reference Database, attributed each habitat based on its ability to slow overland flow (e.g. by intercepting rainfall in the canopy, evapotranspiration and soil infiltration).

Using our SENCE Basic methodology we mapped each resilient ecological network based on core habitat assets (patches) that provide source populations and smaller habitat assets, which provide functional connectivity for each network. The resulting maps were reviewed and analysed by the stakeholder group. Feedback was used to help create a rule-based approach for locating opportunity spaces for GI via the planning system and enhancements via approaches such as the Living Landscape Community Project.
The Natural Flood Management Map map was created using the SENCE tool by using the HAR in combination terrain with soils, geology and land-use management data to identify the best places to slow water flow.