Nature Map

1. What is a nature map?

The twentieth century saw a dramatic reduction in wildlife habitats in the UK as human activity changed the nature of land to grow food and occupied more of it to build houses, factories, roads, landfill sites, power stations, golf courses, marinas, shopping centres, etc.

Today important habitats are a mere remnant of their former extent and exist as isolated havens in a fragmented landscape in which many species struggle to survive.

This decline of our native flora and fauna is well documented and the Biodiversity Action Plans which have driven wildlife conservation in recent years were the response to halt the decline of our native wildlife by 2010.

The Gloucestershire Nature Map has been recognised by the Local Nature Partnership as being the basis of a strategic ecological network for the county and was also part of a Biodiversity Delivery Framework produced by the former Gloucestershire Biodiversity Partnership in 2010.


2. Climate change

While much has been achieved through the BAP process species are still in decline and habitats are still being lost. But now our wildlife faces an even bigger threat – Climate Change.

In order for wildlife to survive it needs to be able to establish viable and sustainable populations. Our fragmented landscape works against this happening so recreating more habitats and linking existing isolated sites has always been the objective of nature conservation.

But now achieving this objective is crucial if our wildlife is to survive the impacts of Climate Change. It is estimated that by mid-century for many species their “climate space” (the climatic conditions to which different species are adapted) will have shifted by an average of 400 km north. In order to survive many species will have no alternative other than to follow their climate space.

The Nature Map for Gloucestershire is the solution to the unprecedented challenge which our wildlife will face in the next 50 years. It shows where the characteristic habitats which typify the county and support its wildlife can be expanded and linked to help wildlife survive in an uncertain future. In simple terms it is an Adaptive Strategy for our wildlife.


3. How was the nature map put together?

Nature Map was created by Gloucestershire’s Biodiversity Partnership following the methodology (available as a download at the bottom of the page), developed by the South West Wildlife Trusts and utilising the extensive local knowledge of Gloucestershire’s expert naturalists.

By first identifying the county’s wildlife “hotspots” in respect of UK BAP priority habitats, blocks of land were defined, which provided the best opportunity for creating and linking these key wildlife habitats. These blocks of land are called “Strategic Nature Areas” (SNAs) and their size and number is dependant on habitat type. SNAs are areas where it is “ecologically feasible” to create the target habitat.

At this stage Nature Map is a vision and does not consider other land use constraints. Fortunately Nature Map allows for other land uses within SNAs because it is only necessary to restore a percentage of each SNA (up to 60%) to the target habitat to create viable and connected habitats through which wildlife can move.

It is important to emphasise that SNAs are not formal designations but simply represent ecological opportunities. There are no constraints or obligations placed on land within SNAs.

Version 1.1 of the Gloucestershire Nature Map with the latest SNA boundaries was released at the end of 2011 by GCER.


4. What are the priority habitats in nature map?

Gloucestershire can be divided into four “Natural Areas” - the Forest of Dean, the Severn Vale, the Cotswolds and the Upper Thames. These are large areas of land which are similar in terms of their ecology and landscape which in turn is largely determined by their underlying geology. The main habitats which characterise these four Natural Areas and for which SNAs have been identified are:

  1. Woodland
  2. Unimproved Limestone Grassland
  3. Unimproved Neutral Grassland
  4. Lowland Wet Grassland
  5. Heathland/Acid Grassland

A range of other habitats exist in the county but these are usually associated as a mosaic within the more widespread habitats listed above. Such habitats are catered for in SNAs as they can be within the other 40% land use. By reaching targets for these habitats we will be providing suitable habitats for the bulk of the county’s wildlife.


5. How do we make nature map happen?

The implementation of Nature Map is a long-term goal but EVERYONE can contribute towards it becoming a reality. These are some of the ways it will happen:

  1. Decision makers at all levels will include the objectives of Nature Map in their policies and strategies.
  2. Agri-environment schemes will target SNAs as a priority.
  3. Conservation organisations will focus their efforts on achieving Nature Map targets.
  4. Partnerships will work together to achieve more.
  5. Land managers will manage their land to achieve Nature Map objectives.
  6. Communities will develop local projects to contribute to the bigger picture.
  7. Individuals will help wildlife in their gardens and also make it clear to the politicians who represent them that helping wildlife adapt to climate change matters.

(All photos by Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography)



FilenameFile size
Nature Map Methodology188.69 KB
Nature Map104.9 KB
Nature Map Release Notes December 2011126.99 KB