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High-tech system promotes roadside wildlife for Highways England

Place - Road North West © Highways England

Highways England is using images from space to develop an innovative approach to promoting wildlife habitat along trunk roads in Cornwall and Devon.

Satellite photos and earth observation techniques have been combined with Highway England’s wildlife data in a software system that can predict areas where biodiversity schemes can make the biggest difference. The system has been used to deliver a number of schemes including:

  • Woodland and hedgerow connectivity at 21 sites along the A38 and A30 in Cornwall and Devon. Gaps in hedgerows and woodland along the roadside were filled 10,000 native trees and shrubs. In total the planting has connected over 105 miles of habitat on the verges and wider landscape adjacent to the roads
  • A heathland creation scheme was also undertaken with an aim to connect existing heathland on sites such as Bodmin, Dartmoor and Gross Moor
  • A planting project sought to promote habitat for the marsh fritillary butterfly in the Gross More area.

Highways England ecologist, Leo Gubert, explained: "Essentially the software crunches our data on habitats and species together with information on the surrounding landscape to find the best locations for habitat creation and enhancement schemes as well as landscape management projects. We look at the populations and habitat connectivity for wildlife such as dormice, bats, endangered butterflies and also species of plants that are of conservation priority and then decide which schemes to prioritise."

So far the system has proven successful and has been nominated for an environmental award from the CIRIA Big Diversity Challenge.

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