Ecological networks are nature’s highways connecting directly or ecologically, habitats and green and blue spaces. These networks allow species to move more easily through landscapes, decreasing the likelihood of species extinctions, increasing genetic exchange and thereby improving ecosystem health and resilience in the face of climate change.
The creation of ecological networks generally focuses on the allocation of specific functions to different areas, depending on their ecological value and nature conservation value:
- core areas, where the conservation of biodiversity, including habitats, is the key function
- movement routes, which allow species to travel between core areas – these may take the form of linear corridors (rivers with their banks or traditional systems for marking field boundaries), stepping stones (such as ponds or small woods) or permeable areas (with some semi-natural features and/or a sufficiently low intensity of land use)
- buffer zones, which are adjacent to and protect the network from damaging impacts arising from human activities (such as nutrient enrichment from fertiliser drift).
Nature Improvement Areas are a new name for the “Ecological Restoration Zones” proposed by the ‘Making Space for Nature’ review. In 2011 12 NIAs were designated, in 2012 it was announced that Local Authorities, Local Nature Partnerships and other local partnerships could identify locally determined NIAs. Locally the Cotswolds Conservation Board has identified two Nature Improvement Areas.
Across the county conservation organisations take ecological networks into account when considering improving and managing habitats. In Oxfordshire these include Conservation Target Areas (CTAs) , River Catchments, Living Landcapes and Futurescapes. More information on CTAs and River Catchments can be found on other pages.
A Living Landscape is a recovery plan for nature championed by The Wildlife Trusts since 2006. It is a new way of thinking about how we manage land to do more for wildlife, people and the economy. BBOWT has three local Living Landscape’s: the Upper River Ray Floodplain, Upper Thames and West Berkshire.
RSPB’s Futurescapes aims to work on the pieces of land between aim to nature reserves and protected areas, as well as improving the protected areas for nature. This will help to join up fragmented habitats in to improve connectivity, resilience and ecosystems services. RSPB Living Landscape in Oxfordshire is the Upper Thames River Valleys, and incorporates the Lapwing Landscapes Project.