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Scientists are using cutting-edge technology as part of our ambitious plan to improve sustainability near the railway.
We have a huge responsibility to look after the land around Britain’s railway. In fact, we own and manage 53,000 hectares of land, including 200 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).
The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), a centre for excellence in environmental science across water, land and air, is an important part of our latest efforts to help biodiversity. It’s used images from satellites and aircraft to produce a detailed national map of all the habitats found alongside the railway.
They contain priority wildlife habitats including lowland heath lands, wetlands and coastal sand dunes. The railway is also home to a large number of rare and threatened species.
UKCEH has combined its information with millions of records of species to predict what animals and plants are likely to live in habitats near the railway.
Important habitats sit very close to the railway all over Britain
The data will ensure our workers and contractors are aware of the possible presence of rare species when carrying out vegetation management. It will also inform our conservation measures to increase biodiversity and provide a baseline for monitoring future trends in biodiversity.
The initiative is part of our Biodiversity Action Plan – drawn up in collaboration with UKCEH scientists – which is an important step in achieving a sustainably managed environment near the railway. Since the 1960s, there have been large changes in vegetation associated with the railway, which have resulted in the loss of bio-diverse, flower-rich habitats. We have committed in our plan to end net loss in biodiversity on its land by 2024 and achieve a net gain by 2035.
Watch this film about how we look after the wildlife at SSSI Folkestone Warren:
Professor Richard Pywell of UKCEH, which used the latest detailed satellite data and its expertise in land cover mapping to identify habitats near the railway, said: “Using high-resolution satellite and aircraft imagery enables us to map habitats across the rail network in a safe, quick and cost-effective way. “We have been able to identify likely biodiversity ‘hotspots’ and understand more about the role of the railway in connecting wildlife across landscapes.”
“We have been able to identify likely biodiversity ‘hotspots’ and understand more about the role of the railway in connecting wildlife across landscapes.”
Martin Frobisher, safety, technical and engineering director at Network Rail, said: “Measuring biodiversity is very complicated and it’s especially tricky for a large organisation such as Network Rail, which manages a vast land estate spread throughout the country. This is a real breakthrough and this technology enables us to measure and monitor the progress we are making.” Chris Heaton Harris, Rail Minister, said: “This high-tech approach will help the rail industry do even more to preserve the unique and picturesque habitats found alongside our rail network. “By protecting biodiversity hotspots and rare species, the use of science and satellites is making the railway an even greener way to travel.”
What are we doing?
The Biodiversity Action Plan contains examples of best practice management for biodiversity across the railway, including alternatives to tree felling, such as crown reduction, pollarding and coppicing of large trees.
Q and A with ecologist Nathaniel Legall
The post Latest technology to improve thousands of miles of biodiversity appeared first on Network Rail.
This article first appeared on www.networkrail.co.uk
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