Habitat Network Service (HaNS)

Small fragmented woodlands within a hostile agricultural landscapeSummary

Despite considerable conservation effort at a site-based scale, research and monitoring has revealed the continuing decline of biodiversity. The decline is thought to be due to the effects of habitat fragmentation and a reduction in habitat quality, caused by edge effects associated with intensive land management. Habitat networks are intended to reverse this decline by linking and expanding habitats which are capable of sustaining a greater biodiversity.

There is potential for the creation of networks for most habitats and species.

Initially, we focussed on the development of forest and woodland habitat networks (FHN), as these have considerable biodiversity interest, and have undergone extreme fragmentation. In developing FHNs we also recognised the need to consider non-woodland habitat and species, to avoid further fragmentation of open ground habitats through the Lowland Habitat Networks (LHN) project.

We then turned to an Integrated Habitat Network (IHN) approach to enhance biodiversity in all habitats whilst providing valuable greenspace links for people.


Funders and Partners

This research is supported by Genomia funding.


Evaluating Biodiversity in Fragmented Landscapes: Principles

Forestry Commission Information Note 073

Examples of previous work

  • Scottish Borders FHN - Pilot study which demonstrated the impact of the Scottish Forestry Grant Scheme rules and an initial exploration of focal species modelling, completed in 2003.
  • West Lothian FHN - A study completed in March 2004, which assessed the impact of Local Development Plans on fragmented Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland, and the potential for creating FHNs within the county.
  • Wales FHN - Phase 1 of the study was completed in December 2004. It comprised theoretical discussion of landscape structural patterns in Wales and defined the woodland habitat networks present. Completed in 2007.
  • Scotland FHN - Project which began with a national assessment of the ecological processes at the landscape scale. A particular focus of this work was the development of a plan to integrate the landscape needs of woodland and open habitat species. Completed in 2008.
  • Scotland LHN - Project which tested the application of focal species modelling to the development of ecological networks in lowland agricultural landscapes. Completed in 2007.
  • Edinburgh and Lothians habitat networks - This study attempts to assess the biodiversity contribution made by woodlands and heathland at the landscape scale, and to evaluate where effort should be targeted to consolidate high quality habitat, and link existing network components by woodland expansion.
  • Developing lowland habitat networks in Scotland - Project which tested the application of focal species modelling in four case study areas in lowland Scotland.
  • FHN in Scotland - The Scotland FHN project expanded on the Scottish Borders and West Lothian pilot studies to indicate the presence and spatial extent of FHNs at the national and regional scale. The outputs have assisted in targeting grants and incentives for woodland expansion.

Additional FHN studies:

Integrated habitat networks (IHN) - resources:



Darren Moseley

Forest Research
Northern Research Station
Midlothian EH25 9SY

Tel: 0300 067 5965
Email: darren.moseley@forestry.gsi.gov.uk