Northumbrian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water Landholdings

Overview

Northumbrian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water have a large network of landholdings, from reservoirs and lakes to sewage treatment works and their surrounding areas. With each of these sites supporting different levels of biodiversity, a standardised method of biodiversity measurement can help to inform decisions over ongoing and future site management. These decisions, in turn, can save money and enhance biodiversity – a win-win for those managing the land and wild nature.

Project brief

In 2018, Ecosulis was commissioned to develop a standardised methodology for assessing the ecological baseline of all Northumbrian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water landholdings. This was achieved through development of a Habitat Valuation Calculator, which used existing data relating to habitat extent, distinctiveness, condition, connectivity and the presence of priority habitat or species, to generate a score for each site. The ecological baseline of all sites could then be assessed cost effectively. In addition, the scores for every sites could be directly compared, regardless of the range of habitats present or current land use.

YEAR

2018-2020

Impact

manage Biodiversity

Changes in management means sites can support greater biodiversity and wildlife comeback.

Protect Habitats

The ecological condition of habitats improves as they become wilder, enabling them to better support wildlife and provide valuable services to people.

empower-us-to-act People

Those managing land can monitor biodiversity far more easily and comparatively, enabling cost savings and compliance with biodiversity net gain legislation.

How we added value.

Biodiversity ranking and management change

The results of the biodiversity assessment for every site – generated using the calculator – were aggregated in a database. This allowed the sites to be ranked and directly compared in terms of biodiversity value. Following site ranking, changes in management were recommended (such as a reduction in the cutting of vegetation) with a view to enhancing biodiversity – in most cases these recommendations also reduced management costs.

The biodiversity enhancement resulting from these management changes was then forecast for each site – this enabled a cost/benefit analysis to be carried out, highlighting where improvements could be made most efficiently. Such forecasting could also be used to assess the best places for biodiversity offsetting within landholdings.

Biodiversity Impact Calculator and net gain

A second calculator was developed to assess the impact of development on biodiversity, and to assess whether biodiversity net gain had been achieved. This included an assessment of on-site and off-site mitigation, as well as a monitoring tab to establish whether net gain had been achieved following construction work. The overall aim of the tool was to ensure that Northumbrian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water achieved net gain within all their projects and landholdings going forwards.

The bigger picture

By developing our knowledge and assessment of biodiversity baselines we can establish which changes in management practice result in optimum biodiversity enhancement. This complies with the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which calls on us to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems. Accurate, standardised biodiversity assessment with user-friendly calculators can inform the management of landholdings as well as large infrastructure schemes.

Want to learn more about rewilding and nature recovery?

Read more insights or explore our previous work.