The development of an indicative habitat network (IHN) is a key action underpinning the realisation of the CSGN. Delivered through landscape scale habitat enhancement projects and local action to prevent the fragmentation of habitats and the loss of species, it will allow our wildlife to adapt to climate change. The habitat network will contribute to high landscape quality across the Central Belt, provide increased recreational opportunities with associated health and well-being improvements, improve water and air quality, support flood prevention and action to address climate change.
There is now full coverage of IHN Mapping for the CSGN area including woodland, wetland, neutral grassland, acid grassland and heathland. A series of dissemination events have helped to share learning with partners and planning, forestry and landscape professionals. The first IHN forum was held in March 2013 to bring together IHN users from local authorities, agencies, NGOs and consultancies.
In 2012, SNH began work on a landscape-scale, multi-partner, multi-site LIFE+ submission to improve ecological coherence across the CSGN area. The project will focus on creating and improving habitat quality and connectivity of three main habitat types: peatland/blanket bog, wetland, and woodland. The bid was submitted in June 2013.
In September 2013, SNH launched an online Indicative Habitat Network user tool for the CSGN area. The simple GIS mapping tool allows a user to view the existing habitat networks at a range of scales and then to scenario-plan new land use options, such as woodland planting to see the effect on connectivity and habitat function across landscapes. It can be found to the SNH website.
The CSGN Development Fund has supported over 40 habitat focussed projects, including habitat and biodiversity improvements in the Nith and Lugar water catchments in East Ayrshire.
To deliver the IHN, we aim by 2016 to ensure that:
- The Ecological Coherence project encompassing landscape scale habitat network enhancement projects is submitted for LIFE+ funding.
- The Ecological coherence LIFE+ project has secured funding and the project has started (or alternate sources of funding are being sought).
- IHN data and associated web based land use planning tools have been promoted in policy and practice and are actively used by decision-makers.
- The IHN model has been rerun with updated methodology and data sources and the results reported upon, published and disseminated.
This work is being taken forward by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).