Integrated habitat network modelling

Rough grassland hilltop, looking down across woodland, arable and urban landscape mosaic
© Patricia & Angus Macdonald/Aerographica


The approach employs a detailed desk study using digital data within a geographic information system (GIS) to identify Integrated Habitat Networks (IHNs). The spatial position and extent of functional integrated habitat networks were determined through a landscape ecology model from the BEETLE (Biological and Environmental Evaluation Tools for Landscape Ecology) suite of tools.

The BEETLE least-cost focal species approach negates the need to carry out a vast number of individual species analyses. The selection of the habitats to be modelled, and the species used to inform the analysis, were identified through a series of expert stakeholder workshops. The outputs can support the planning process, help prioritise conservation effort, prevent further fragmentation of biodiversity and aid connectivity of semi natural habitats.

BEETLE model analysis has been well referenced (Watts et al., 2005) and used in a variety of projects such as developing forest habitat networks across Scotland. The application of IHNs is the first time that the multiple habitat network approach has been used to solicit planning and development programmes in key areas.

IHN studies

Two IHN studies have been undertaken:

Objectives of research

To identify:

  • Focal species appropriate for the region, and to research and describe elements of their autecology to classify their functional interaction with habitat and the matrix of the wider landscape.
  • Key areas for native woodland restoration and expansion in order to link core woodland habitats within and between neighbouring networks.
  • Key areas for expansion or restoration of a number of identified open ground habitats to link core habitat areas within and between neighbouring areas, to maintain their ecological function and viability, as well as creating a functionally connected network.
  • The land-use conflicts and the trade-offs required to deliver an integrated habitat network that combines several specific habitat types.
  • Conflicts and opportunities for habitat networks associated with development proposals, historic landscapes, and landscape character.
  • The opportunities to enhance and expand the Integrated Habitat Network associated with Local Plan Core Development Areas, and the prescriptions required for development to contribute towards this.


Watts, K., Humphrey, J.W., Griffiths, M., Quine, C.P. and Ray, D. (2005). Evaluating biodiversity in fragmented forest landscapes: principles (PDF-488K) . Forestry Commission Information Note 73. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.