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Rapid assessment of historic, current and future habitat quality for biodiversity around UK Natura 2000 sites

  • I. N. VOGIATZAKIS (a1), M. T. STIRPE (a2), S. RICKEBUSCH (a3) (a4), M. J. METZGER (a4), G. XU (a4) (a5), M. D. A. ROUNSEVELL (a4), R. BOMMARCO (a6) and S. G. POTTS (a2)...

Changes in landscape composition and structure may impact the conservation and management of protected areas. Species that depend on specific habitats are at risk of extinction when these habitats are degraded or lost. Designing robust methods to evaluate landscape composition will assist decision- and policy-making in emerging landscapes. This paper describes a rapid assessment methodology aimed at evaluating land-cover quality for birds, plants, butterflies and bees around seven UK Natura 2000 sites. An expert panel assigned quality values to standard Coordination of Information on the Environment (CORINE) land-cover classes for each taxonomic group. Quality was assessed based on historical (1950, 1990), current (2000) and future (2030) land-cover data, the last projected using three alternative scenarios: a growth-applied strategy (GRAS), a business-as-might-be-usual (BAMBU) scenario, and sustainable European development goal (SEDG) scenario. A quantitative quality index weighted the area of each land-cover parcel with a taxa-specific quality measure. Land parcels with high quality for all taxonomic groups were evaluated for temporal changes in area, size and adjacency. For all sites and taxonomic groups, the rate of deterioration of land-cover quality was greater between 1950 and 1990 than current rates or as modelled using the alternative future scenarios (2000–2030). Model predictions indicated land-cover quality stabilized over time under the GRAS scenario, and was close to stable for the BAMBU scenario. The SEDG scenario suggested an ongoing loss of quality, though this was lower than the historical rate of c. 1% loss per decade. None of the future scenarios showed accelerated fragmentation, but rather increases in the area, adjacency and diversity of high quality land parcels in the landscape.

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*Correspondence: Ioannis Vogiatzakis Tel: +357 22411933 Fax: +357 22411671 e-mail:
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