Nature recovery mapped out with location data

Ordnance Survey (OS) data has helped map out a major nature recovery strategy for Manchester.

The city is one of five pilot areas chosen by DEFRA to develop a Local Nature Recovery Strategy to help reverse urban nature decline.

The local authority was approached to carry out a pilot scheme in 2020 and is now repeating the process with the help of OS.

Work to map and identify current land use and land cover is being done by the Greater Manchester Ecology Unit (GMEU), using the OS National Geographic Database and its products.

‘Recipes’ or layers of data mapping can be selected as required.

A critical part of the strategy is a map showing priority sites for nature recovery work. The ecology unit didn’t have an existing habitat map, so used OS data as the basis to set one up.

Data collected so far shows, surprisingly, that two-thirds of the Greater Manchester area is made up of farmland, parks, woodland, green spaces and waterways.

The data also models wildlife movement with a visual indication of existing corridors. Part of the strategy is to protect and expand these networks, ensuring that species like great crested newts, farmland birds and water voles can move around more easily.

Location data can also be applied to tools which establish the safest places to create new wildlife corridors.

GMEU spokesman Paul Barrington said, “Using OS data has saved the project so much time – it really has been a game-changer. 

“The various feature sets have enabled us to estimate land use percentages so we can see how much is made up of agriculture, buildings or residential gardens and driveways. 

“OS data is also helping us identify which groups of stakeholders and land managers have the most influence and who we need to be engaged with to assist with that nature recovery.”

With more OS datasets due for release, such as land cover type, percentage cover and field boundaries, Paul also explains the importance of timing.

“It is critical to have this information now. It is a statutory requirement to halt nature decline in the UK by 2030 and reverse it by 2042. 

“Being able to understand the detail of the land use in Greater Manchester is a great step forward. I would really recommend that other authorities involved in the LNRS process explore how data from the OS NGD can help them develop their own strategies.”

The Public Sector Geospatial Agreement gives the public sector access to OS expertise and location data for free.

More information about the Ordnance Survey National Geographic Database can be found here.

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