Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Geographical Information Systems

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 16th December 2020.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if he will make an assessment of the (a) adequacy and (b) comprehensiveness of the priority habitat inventory on the Multi-Agency Geographic Information for the Countryside website.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Priority Habitats Inventory, published on the MAGIC website, describes the distribution of 24 habitats of nature conservation importance identified in Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (2006). The data underpinning the mapping have been compiled over a 40-year period from multiple sources including:

  • Targeted field surveys;
  • Habitat data captured to support the designation and management of protected Sites of Special Scientific Interest;
  • Farm Environmental Audits completed to support delivery of Environmental Land Management Schemes and associated Scheme monitoring work;
  • Data supplied by environmental stakeholder and partner organisations, where made available under appropriate license.

The Priority Habitats Inventory provides the best representation we have on an England-wide scale of the location and extent of the priority habitats, produced using openly available data. As a compilation of data, gathered from many sources over a lengthy timescale, it is not comprehensive.

To support Defra's objectives set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan and address these issues, Defra has set up the Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment pilot. This is working across the Defra group to develop and improve our natural capital, habitat and ecosystem mapping and evidence. It includes work to produce Living England, a new comprehensive map of England's habitats, produced from interpretation of satellite data, which we will be able to be updated on a regular basis. It also includes work to enhance the existing Priority Habitats Inventory by improving the update process, collecting new priority habitat data, sourcing and adding additional habitat datasets held by partner organisations, and updating the Ancient Woodland Inventory.

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