What is in the website?
We need information to plan if we are to come up with effective answers to the threats to our:
What are the lessons from our recent past and what knowledge and means do we have to enable us to adapt?
This tool shows a snapshot, built up over many years, by the staff of Natural England, of the most interesting areas of England in terms of wildlife and geology.
The idea is to make this information accessible as a base line, because we have over the last fifty years lost so much of our habitats and we risk losing so much more wildlife in the future, much of which most of us know very little about.
In the future, presumably, to preserve biodiversity we will 'farm' bits less intensively and to provide food we'll farm other bits more intensively but with less pollution, to balance the population's needs.
It can also be used as a tool to assist in identifying environmental sensitivites and opportunities in an area during planning, for example for Countryside Stewardship.
Scientists, accademics, farmers, land managers, students, walkers or hikers can access all of the descriptions of the English Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and see them on a dynamic map.
This gives a great overview of the richest of our wildlife sites, habitats and ecosystems. It challenges you to learn more about the country and provides phenomenal context to walks and hikes.
You will be able to search 4,123 sites and 1.5 million words of site descriptions.
The geology serves to underpin the biology and one wonders what today will look like in 100 million years, when it is 1 millimetre thick, a few hundred metres down in the rock strata.
The website shows the basic protected area designation in the UK, the Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)s. Note, that these areas are protected by law and many are on private land, itself protected by law.
The site comprises a map linked to a data base. The map is also linked to the Natural England webserver for information layers about habitats, habitat condition, nature reserves and woodland data.
All of the English sites are included, some 4,100+ sites in 9,500 parcels. The site descriptions total 1,500,000 words of which 40,000 are unique.
The SSSI condition shows their condition green is good and other colours through the spectrum to red, not so good.
The 'National Trails' show up as blue coloured lines.
The SSSI descriptions are from the Natural England citations for each site. The text looks up the scientific names in the database. For now this allows a google search to be made for further information about the names coloured blue. This could be extended to common names, habitats and plant communities etcetera. In the future this can be used to cross reference information. This is a work in progress so some categories have not yet been finished.
The 'Word or term' feature makes this easily accessible.
For example, follow a trail i.e. the Southwest Coast Path through 660 kilometres of fascinating areas.
The database contains 3,500 species of plants and lichens, with 280 National Vegetation Classification (NVC) communities and 70+ habitats. The idea being to link the habitat with the plants that might be found there. The Natural England's citations are brief so descriptions of a location and where a habitat is mentioned, a fuller list of likely, associated plants, may be found using the database.
At this point it is easy to add further data and complexity to the database and to further refine the site.
For example SACs, SPAs, Forestry Commission woodland inventory, ancient woodland and National Character Areas.
This data will be useful, for example, for informing the forthcoming Countryside Stewardship Scheme strategies for farmers to adopt.