Open Knowledge Exchange (KE) Fellowships - Facilitating the application of decision support tools for habitat creation

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

Abstract

One of the biggest challenges for society in the 21st century will be to reconcile competing demands on land use while avoiding environmental degradation. Supplies of food, fresh water and energy and overall quality of life depend on the health of ecosystems, which are threatened by short-sighted land management practices and climate change. Species and ecosystems have limited capacity to survive climate change, especially in industrialised landscapes where natural habitats are fragmented, populations are small, and it is difficult for species to colonise sites that are newly climatically suitable.

In response to this challenge, many organisations are getting involved in ecosystem restoration, and aim to build a functioning ecological network which will be resilient to future shocks. Existing wildlife sites will form the backbone of this network, but its completion requires coordinated action on a vast spatial scale, involving a hugely diverse body of land users and landowners. Decision support tools can be invaluable to synthesise complex, spatial data and help to prioritise limited resources. There are various tools and sources of data available for informing landscape scale conservation and a number stem from NERC-funded science. In particular, computational network models can show how different habitat arrangements might maximise connectivity or flow through the landscape. One example of this is the NERC-funded Condatis software developed at the University of Liverpool. Getting informative outputs from such models requires accurate inputs, in the form of maps of habitat and restoration potential, and species traits. The UK has enviable collections of environmental and species data, much funded by NERC, but it can be complex to access and process.

The Condatis project and other habitat network models have catalysed great enthusiasm and support from stakeholders. However, barriers to uptake of the best tools have been identified, including a lack of plain English documentation, confusion about which software to use in which case, a lack of accessible data and a lack of completed case studies showing outputs successfully implemented on the ground. Limited time and resources within landscape scale projects is a compounding issue. This project will build a network for practical knowledge exchange between researchers and decision makers who influence habitat creation and restoration decisions in the UK and Europe.
The fellowship will focus firstly on improving understanding of the existing habitat network modelling tools and increasing awareness of them. An online community will be fostered by creation of a website, forum and social media. Documentation based on user feedback will condense the lessons learned from successful projects and accelerate the learning curve for new users. Secondly, partners will help to identify sources of species and habitat data, and explore ways of delivering easier access to these data for use in habitat network models. Thirdly, practical support will assist a small number of case study landscape-scale initiatives using Condatis, to achieve results on the ground. These case studies will be prepared as worked examples to guide new users and build confidence in Condatis as a decision making tool.

As a result of this fellowship, many relevant end-users will be better equipped to prioritise actions within habitat networks. The aim is that this type of analysis will become mainstream within conservation organisations, rather than specialised to a handful of individuals within organisations willing to invest months in analytical work. If this happens, more justifiable real-world decisions can be made with minimal overheads of time and money. The ultimate result will be that species and ecological functions are maintained in habitat networks that will be resilient for generations to come, contributing to multiple aspects of human prosperity.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The following is a summary of the developing impacts so far. - Developing case studies with KE partners. Some partners are using Condatis to inform their conservation planning work and more are being identified through the KE network. These activities will form case studies to showcase the usefulness of the Condatis tool and to provide evidence of impact. In particular, Condatis is being used to plan nationwide analysis of habitat restoration priorities and, at a regional level, to identify key areas where ecological flow needs to be protected from future development, most notably the proposed high-speed rail route (HS2). These projects will be supported and developed as case studies, which will be written up to demonstrate the usefulness of Condatis to other users. - Condatis was used by the Woodland Trust and the Community Forests in their planning for the Government-backed, Northern Forest initiative which will plant over 50 million trees. Condatis was used to show importance of existing woodland for species movement and to suggest locations where tree planting could have maximum impact. - The Carbon Landscape Heritage-lottery funded project is undertaking Condatis analysis to determine the top-priority spatial locations where they might spend their restoration funds in the next 3-5 years - Condatis is among the tools covered by Natural England's Ecological Networks Evidence Handbook: A guide to map-based models and tools for planning ecological networks, and is being used to measure connectivity in pilot areas, where various new methodologies are being trialled alongside habitat restoration. - Condatis is referenced in the Town and Country Planning Association journal, available to all members of the TCPA. http://communityforest.org.uk/resources/Northern%20Forest%20article%20for%20TCPA%20Journal.pdf - Buglife have used Condatis to prioritise locations for wildflower habitat restoration within their network of proposed B-Lines. - Partners in Ghana, Indonesia and Malaysia will use Condatis to prioritise restoration and protection of tropical forest.
Sector Environment
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Influence on practice
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Practitioners in Natural England and Wildlife Trusts are using COndatis to prioritise their restoration and habitat creation actions on the ground. This represents a shift away from land management at a site level which was previously prioritised based on popular or highly visited sites, towards management which considered the habitat network as a whole and considers where limited funds could be best spent to strengthen the network for the future. This will ultimately contribute to more resilient ecosystem support services in the future and safeguarding of our natural assets.
 
Description Innovation Follow-on grant
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 ODA seed fund
Amount £8,735 (GBP)
Organisation University of Liverpool 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 04/2017
 
Description Habitat Restoration using Condatis (RSPB & NE) 
Organisation Natural England
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We will provide the two KE partners with a ready-made case study which will help their actions in the next few years. The activities to achieve this are: • Workshop to plan nationwide analysis of restoration priorities. • Rank suitable restoration areas according to their ability to improve linkages between the existing priority habitat patches. • Produce orders of magnitude improvement in the size of dataset that can be ranked, producing outputs at better than 1km resolution. Methods for achieving this include code optimisation, multi-threading, and reducing redundancy in the ranking algorithm.
Collaborator Contribution Datasets (maps) of restoration suitability.
Impact Initial meeting held to establish habitats for analysis. Software development has commenced.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Habitat Restoration using Condatis (RSPB & NE) 
Organisation Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We will provide the two KE partners with a ready-made case study which will help their actions in the next few years. The activities to achieve this are: • Workshop to plan nationwide analysis of restoration priorities. • Rank suitable restoration areas according to their ability to improve linkages between the existing priority habitat patches. • Produce orders of magnitude improvement in the size of dataset that can be ranked, producing outputs at better than 1km resolution. Methods for achieving this include code optimisation, multi-threading, and reducing redundancy in the ranking algorithm.
Collaborator Contribution Datasets (maps) of restoration suitability.
Impact Initial meeting held to establish habitats for analysis. Software development has commenced.
Start Year 2016
 
Description ODA seed fund group 
Organisation Bogor Agricultural University
Country Indonesia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We made contact with the organisations listed to invite them to collaborate on a bid for ODA seed funding within University of Liverpool. We coordinated an online teleconference to begin building a relationship and obtain initial ideas and feedback. We will be contributing knowledge and tools in the form of the software, Condatis. We will provide access to servers for processing data and support with interpretation.
Collaborator Contribution The partners contributed knowledge about the issues and routes to impact in their locations. They will supply the necessary data to run Condatis for their study regions. Some will apply for funding to further this work.
Impact Funding of £8,735 received from University of Liverpool to pump-prime future GCRF bids.
Start Year 2017
 
Description ODA seed fund group 
Organisation Daemeter Consulting
Country Indonesia 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We made contact with the organisations listed to invite them to collaborate on a bid for ODA seed funding within University of Liverpool. We coordinated an online teleconference to begin building a relationship and obtain initial ideas and feedback. We will be contributing knowledge and tools in the form of the software, Condatis. We will provide access to servers for processing data and support with interpretation.
Collaborator Contribution The partners contributed knowledge about the issues and routes to impact in their locations. They will supply the necessary data to run Condatis for their study regions. Some will apply for funding to further this work.
Impact Funding of £8,735 received from University of Liverpool to pump-prime future GCRF bids.
Start Year 2017
 
Description ODA seed fund group 
Organisation Forestry Research Institute of Ghana
Country Ghana 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We made contact with the organisations listed to invite them to collaborate on a bid for ODA seed funding within University of Liverpool. We coordinated an online teleconference to begin building a relationship and obtain initial ideas and feedback. We will be contributing knowledge and tools in the form of the software, Condatis. We will provide access to servers for processing data and support with interpretation.
Collaborator Contribution The partners contributed knowledge about the issues and routes to impact in their locations. They will supply the necessary data to run Condatis for their study regions. Some will apply for funding to further this work.
Impact Funding of £8,735 received from University of Liverpool to pump-prime future GCRF bids.
Start Year 2017
 
Description ODA seed fund group 
Organisation Jambi University
PI Contribution We made contact with the organisations listed to invite them to collaborate on a bid for ODA seed funding within University of Liverpool. We coordinated an online teleconference to begin building a relationship and obtain initial ideas and feedback. We will be contributing knowledge and tools in the form of the software, Condatis. We will provide access to servers for processing data and support with interpretation.
Collaborator Contribution The partners contributed knowledge about the issues and routes to impact in their locations. They will supply the necessary data to run Condatis for their study regions. Some will apply for funding to further this work.
Impact Funding of £8,735 received from University of Liverpool to pump-prime future GCRF bids.
Start Year 2017
 
Description ODA seed fund group 
Organisation Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST)
Country Ghana 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We made contact with the organisations listed to invite them to collaborate on a bid for ODA seed funding within University of Liverpool. We coordinated an online teleconference to begin building a relationship and obtain initial ideas and feedback. We will be contributing knowledge and tools in the form of the software, Condatis. We will provide access to servers for processing data and support with interpretation.
Collaborator Contribution The partners contributed knowledge about the issues and routes to impact in their locations. They will supply the necessary data to run Condatis for their study regions. Some will apply for funding to further this work.
Impact Funding of £8,735 received from University of Liverpool to pump-prime future GCRF bids.
Start Year 2017
 
Description ODA seed fund group 
Organisation Malaysian University of Sabah
Department Faculty of Sustainable Agriculture
Country Malaysia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We made contact with the organisations listed to invite them to collaborate on a bid for ODA seed funding within University of Liverpool. We coordinated an online teleconference to begin building a relationship and obtain initial ideas and feedback. We will be contributing knowledge and tools in the form of the software, Condatis. We will provide access to servers for processing data and support with interpretation.
Collaborator Contribution The partners contributed knowledge about the issues and routes to impact in their locations. They will supply the necessary data to run Condatis for their study regions. Some will apply for funding to further this work.
Impact Funding of £8,735 received from University of Liverpool to pump-prime future GCRF bids.
Start Year 2017
 
Description ODA seed fund group 
Organisation South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP)
Country Malaysia 
Sector Multiple 
PI Contribution We made contact with the organisations listed to invite them to collaborate on a bid for ODA seed funding within University of Liverpool. We coordinated an online teleconference to begin building a relationship and obtain initial ideas and feedback. We will be contributing knowledge and tools in the form of the software, Condatis. We will provide access to servers for processing data and support with interpretation.
Collaborator Contribution The partners contributed knowledge about the issues and routes to impact in their locations. They will supply the necessary data to run Condatis for their study regions. Some will apply for funding to further this work.
Impact Funding of £8,735 received from University of Liverpool to pump-prime future GCRF bids.
Start Year 2017
 
Description ODA seed fund group 
Organisation University of York
Department Department of Biology
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We made contact with the organisations listed to invite them to collaborate on a bid for ODA seed funding within University of Liverpool. We coordinated an online teleconference to begin building a relationship and obtain initial ideas and feedback. We will be contributing knowledge and tools in the form of the software, Condatis. We will provide access to servers for processing data and support with interpretation.
Collaborator Contribution The partners contributed knowledge about the issues and routes to impact in their locations. They will supply the necessary data to run Condatis for their study regions. Some will apply for funding to further this work.
Impact Funding of £8,735 received from University of Liverpool to pump-prime future GCRF bids.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Condatis network meetings 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We host meetings of our knowledge exchange network to promote sharing of good practice, experiences and updates to the knowledge base. The first was attended by 18 members of the network. Lots of discussion took place as well as a structured feedback gathering session, which will guide future developments. Members reported that the meeting was useful and they would like to continue to participate in the network.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://wordpress.condatis.org.uk/first-network-meeting
 
Description Condatis website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We developed a website for this knowledge exchange project. The purpose is to act as a hub for information sharing and support to use spatial decision tools.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL http://condatis.org.uk/
 
Description Ongoing promotion of Condatis and spatial decision tools. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We attend conferences and meetings for practitioners and decision makers to present Condatis as a tool to support planning and raise awareness of habitat network models.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017