Achieving bigger, better and more joined-up habitat networks: quantifying benefits and comparing scenarios

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Institute of Integrative Biology

Abstract

Nature conservation organisations have two new and interrelated challenges in the 21st century: conserving species in a changing climate and conserving ecosystem functioning at large spatial scales. Habitat loss and fragmentation make species especially vulnerable to climate change, both because their populations are smaller, and because the gaps between suitable areas are more difficult to cross - a situation described as a "deadly anthropogenic cocktail". This project will work with seven UK nature conservation organisations to develop a mapping and prioritisation software tool to improve the planning of ecological networks at regional and larger scales. Although conservation organisations are charged with planning ecological networks, and there are well-established principles that networks consist of habitat patches and linkages to enable movement between them, there is a lack of specific guidance on which actions would improve existing networks. The tool we propose will address this urgent need: It will enable conservation practitioners to balance the needs for viable sub-populations and large-scale linkages, and to prioritise locations for habitat restoration to provide resilience to climate change, thus targeting limited conservation resources as efficiently as possible. This innovation is possible because of recent NERC funded research by the applicant which shows how to quantify the speed of range shifting of a species in a fragmented landscape of habitat given simple assumptions about its population. In the new tool, this quantitative measure will be combined with a validated measure of population viability. As an immediate outcome, the tool will be used by our partner organisations, and other organisations involved in nature conservation and land-use planning. In the medium-term, the legacy of the project will be a confident and growing group of users of the tool who can develop it still further, and can maintain close contact with the scientists who created it. The anticipated long-term impact of the proposed tool is to help the U.K.'s important wildlife sites to be more functionally connected, and wildlife populations to be more resilient to climate change and also to natural or man-made disasters that temporarily wipe out populations. This will in turn improve quality of life because of the multiple direct and indirect benefits of stable ecosystems to the human population.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We developed a software tool for mapping and prioritisation of habitat networks: called Condatis. Its purpose is to identify the most important wildlife sites for long-distance, multi-generation connectivity as needed by species during climate change. Where connectivity is currently limited, the software helps to prioritise locations for habitat restoration. The software can also show which parts of the landscape are most resistant to extinction in the long term.
Condatis was designed to be used across the nature conservation and local planning sectors, with a particular focus on the UK, and seven major practitioner organisations helped in its design.
We and our project partners have tested Condatis using realistic data for a variety of regions in order to assess its feasibility at different spatial scales, and for different species and habitats.
We have developed thorough guidance on using Condatis through testing with target users from partner organisations and a cycle of feedback and revisions, and we have made help and case studies available for free on our website.
We have helped to attract new users to Condatis through several open workshops and a user mailing list.
Exploitation Route Conservation organisations can use software like Condatis to achieve real-word impacts such as:
[A] Prioritising very limited amounts of funding and manpower available for restoration by finding sites with the highest benefit:cost ratio.
[B] Winning funding for management or restoration based on evidence of the improvement in connectivity that would result.
[C] Calculating the connectivity cost of losing a site under threat, such that offsetting is effective, appropriate compensating habitat can be secured and inappropriate development is avoided.
[D] Winning cooperation from multiple landowners by communicating a coherent vision of the desired network.
By these means, habitat will be created and restored to form a large-scale coherent ecological network for biodiversity conservation, which also delivers ecosystem services.

In policy circles, the Condatis metric of long-distance connectivity ('conductance') has great potential to be used as an indicator to track the implementation of biodiversity and climate change adaptation policies.

These potential impacts are starting to be realised in the UK and around the world, particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia and Ghana where we have collaborations since 2017. For more details see the narrative impact section.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

URL http://www.condatis.org.uk
 
Description Since this was a KE grant, the objectives of the grant and all the entries in this form are to do with impact. In summary, our software Condatis is becoming established as a decision-support tool which fills a gap in the 'market' between other tools and is user-friendly enough to be practically valuable within our original partner organisations and beyond. In mid-2018 the Condatis desktop software had 93 registered users from >60 organisations, including representatives from 5 continents. Since then we have encouraged users to switch to the new web application (see the entry for Condatis web) and take-up has accelerated. About 2/3 of users on registration intend to use the software to recommend on-the-ground actions. We are aware of over 10 significant case studies of its use in practice, notably: -Use by Buglife to help to prioritise flower-rich habitat restoration in the 'B-lines' project, particularly in Northumberland, north-east England and Kent. -Use by Warwicksire County Council as part of their suite of GIS tools to assist planners http://maps.warwickshire.gov.uk/greeninfrastructure / -Use by Mersey Forest and the Woodland trust to make an initial mapping of priority locations to plant the 50M trees of the 'Northern Forest' -Use in a multidisciplinary, multi-partner project planning the designation of additional Protected Areas in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, led by the South-East Asia Rainforest Research Programme -Natural Resources Wales made Condatis a part of their 2015/16 Business Plan (see Policy outputs). -Natural England have discussed the use of Condatis as one of the analytical tools in their Habitat Fragmentation Theme Plan for Natura 2000 sites (see Policy outputs).
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Citation in IPENS Habitat Fragmentation Theme Plan
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
URL http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/publications
 
Description Citation in Natural Resources Wales Business Plan
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
URL https://naturalresources.wales/media/3693/natural-resources-wales-business-plan-2015-16.pdf
 
Description HEFCE ODA research seed fund
Amount £8,735 (GBP)
Organisation University of Liverpool 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2017 
End 03/2017
 
Description Impact accelerator scheme (Faculty of Health and Life Sciences)
Amount £4,577 (GBP)
Organisation University of Liverpool 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 06/2017
 
Description International: Decision support for restoring ecological networks in rapidly developing, biodiverse countries
Amount £98,134 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/R009597/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2017 
End 04/2019
 
Description KE Fellowship scheme
Amount £137,165 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/N005376/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2016 
End 01/2019
 
Description Buglife knowledge exchange 
Organisation Buglife
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We developed software to help partners with the problem of planning and prioritising habitat networks. In early 2015 Buglife commissioned us (£1200) to run some analyses for their B-lines projects in Northumberland and Kent
Collaborator Contribution Staff time to advise on the functionality needed in the software, test the prototype software, and help to publicise the outcomes to other practitioners.
Impact Software Condatis: see the technology output section B-lines analyses for Northumberland and Kent have have since been used in publicly available reports and will inform stakeholder dialogue and decision-making.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Forest research knowledge exchange 
Organisation Forest Research
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We developed software to help partners with the problem of planning and prioritising habitat networks.
Collaborator Contribution Staff time to advise on the functionality needed in the software, test the prototype software, and help to publicise the outcomes to other practitioners.
Impact Software Condatis: see the software and technical products output section
Start Year 2014
 
Description NRW knowledge exchange 
Organisation Countryside Council for Wales
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We developed software to help partners with the problem of planning and prioritising habitat networks.
Collaborator Contribution Staff time to advise on the functionality needed in the software, test the prototype software, and help to publicise the outcomes to other practitioners.
Impact Software Condatis: see the software and technical products output section
Start Year 2014
 
Description Natural England knowledge exchange 
Organisation Natural England
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We developed software to help partners with the problem of planning and prioritising habitat networks.
Collaborator Contribution Staff time to advise on the functionality needed in the software, test the prototype software, and help to publicise the outcomes to other practitioners.
Impact Software Condatis: see the technology output section
Start Year 2014
 
Description RSPB knowledge exchange 
Organisation Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We developed software to help partners with the problem of planning and prioritising habitat networks.
Collaborator Contribution Staff time to advise on the functionality needed in the software, test the prototype software, and help to publicise the outcomes to other practitioners.
Impact Software Condatis: see the software and technical products output section
Start Year 2014
 
Title Condatis 
Description Condatis is software to analyse how habitat networks provide long-distance, multigenerational connectivity for species, and how they might be improved by habitat restoration in specific places. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2014 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact In mid-2018 the Condatis desktop software had 93 registered users from >60 organisations, including representatives from 5 continents. Since then we have encouraged users to switch to the new web application (see the entry for Condatis web) and take-up has accelerated. About 2/3 of users on registration intend to use the software to recommend on-the-ground actions. We are aware of over 10 significant case studies of its use in practice, notably: -Use by Buglife to help to prioritise flower-rich habitat restoration in the 'B-lines' project, particularly in Northumberland, north-east England and Kent. -Use by Warwicksire County Council as part of their suite of GIS tools to assist planners http://maps.warwickshire.gov.uk/greeninfrastructure / -Use by Mersey Forest and the Woodland trust to make an initial mapping of priority locations to plant the 50M trees of the 'Northern Forest' -Use in a multidisciplinary, multi-partner project planning the designation of additional Protected Areas in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, led by the South-East Asia Rainforest Research Programme -Natural Resources Wales made Condatis a part of their 2015/16 Business Plan (see Policy outputs). -Natural England have discussed the use of Condatis as one of the analytical tools in their Habitat Fragmentation Theme Plan for Natura 2000 sites (see Policy outputs). 
URL http://www.condatis.org.uk
 
Title Condatis web 
Description Condatis is a decision support tool to identify the best locations for habitat creation and restoration to enhance existing habitat networks and increase connectivity across landscapes. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The Condatis web application was launched in September 2018. As at 12 March 2019 it has 80 registered, active users (not counting those in our research team); more than half of the users are from the ODA DAC-list countries that we partnered with in this funded project: Malaysia (13), Indonesia (28) and Ghana (4). In total, the active users have run over 800 individual analyses. The Condatis web application has several technical features to make it accessible to our target users in developing countries with basic computers intermittent internet access, and limited RAM and disk storage. Using the software is free, and the computationally demanding analyses happen on a high-performance server in Liverpool, rather than being limited by the computing resources of the user. 
URL https://webapp.condatis.org.uk/
 
Description Condatis launch webinar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Webinar presented the outcomes of the project as at January 2015: the software itself and the application case studies by Buglife and Natural Resources Wales. 10-15 people watched live and 83 people have watched the recording online. Several users have reported finding the webinar a useful introduction which helped them to decide to try Condatis.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://stream.liv.ac.uk/ucj6qbdq
 
Description Countrywide Condatis training workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Practical workshops lasting ~4h were held in Liverpool, Edinburgh, Exeter, Peterborough in March 2015. A similar workshop was run as part of the "Spatial Ecology and Conservation 3" Conference in Bristol on 14 July 2015. Attendees learnt how Condatis works and the kind of problems it can help to solve, and ran through guided exercises with demo data that were provided. They also had the opportunity to bring their own data for input.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Display stand at RSPB reserves conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Display stand with posters and live demonstrations introduced delegates at RSPB reserves conference to the beta version of our software. Led to some follow-up interest from the head of RSPB Futurescapes programme.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://annpatterson.wix.com/rspbreservesconf2014
 
Description Launch knowledge exchange workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Two-day workshop to bring together project partners and selected experts on spatial conservation planning, resulted in a plan for the remit of the software to be developed in our year-long project

Because partners had input into the planning and understood what we were trying to do, they were much more enthusiastic about helping to test the software later on.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Presentation at Nature Improvements Areas (NIAs) Best Practice Network event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk about Condatis was given at Nature Improvements Areas (NIAs) Best Practice Network event on 24 February 2015. This event was specifically focussed on the issue of connectivity of NIAs. I also participated in round-table discussions about the best ways to measure connectivity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/4553703239450624
 
Description Software training workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Representatives of project partners were trained in using our prototype software so that they could then use it in a conservation case study relevant to their organisation.

At least five case studies were created which illustrates the usefulness of the software.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014