The need for improved access to environmental data has become more pressing in light of Government’s ambition to more than triple woodland establishment rates over the coming decade. Trees have a pivotal role to play in supporting the recovery of nature, however, location is key. Data is needed to inform where increasing tree and woodland cover can enhance biodiversity and where it must be avoided to protect existing nature rich habitat. To meet this need Natural England and the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) have developed a series of botanical heatmaps derived from BSBI plant occurrence records spanning the period 1970-2021.
This work, funded under the Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment (NCEA), aims to identify areas of high habitat quality, by combining occurrence records of species strongly associated with habitats of high wildlife value: (1) species that are nationally rare, scarce or threatened (RST) and (2) habitat specialists (Priority Habitat Positive Indicators, PHPI). By overlaying the distribution of these species at high resolution (1-km or better), an easy to interpret ‘botanical value’ map was created that can be used to guide strategic spatial planning on new tree and woodlands and other land use interventions.
This technical document describes how the heatmap layers were developed. Key limitations to their use are set out, including variable survey coverage. In areas of poor survey coverage their use may be limited and other sources of information including from field survey will be required to ensure decisions are supported by the appropriate evidence.