A comprehensive planting scheme that is supporting wildlife habitats near major roads in Devon and Cornwall has been recognised in a national environmental awards scheme.
As part of a project for Highways England, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) looked at a variety of data to identify gaps between habitats and species populations near the A30 and A38.
Highways England then used this data to decide locations for an extensive planting scheme to improve connectivity between habitats to support wildlife in the area, including dormice, bats, insect pollinators and endangered butterflies, plus plant species that are considered to be a conservation priority.
The scheme took second place in the medium/large scale award at the Ciria BIG Biodiversity Challenge ceremony at the Royal College of Physicians in London.
The project has included planting 10,000 native trees and shrubs to fill or reduce gaps in hedgerow and woodland beside the A30 and A38, thereby connecting over 105 miles of habitat on the verges and land adjacent to the two roads. In addition, almost 27,000 square metres of new heathland - a 60% increase – was created along the verge of roads in Dartmoor, Devon, and Bodmin Moor and Goss Moor in Cornwall.
Highways England is also creating 59,000 square metres of species-rich grassland by the A38. These new habitats will help support pollinating species and link together several SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest). Planting schemes include promoting habitat for the rare marsh fritillary butterfly in the Goss Moor area.
The scheme has ensured that the roads can be assets to connectivity between habitats and not barriers - John Redhead
John Redhead, of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, explained how satellite data from CEH’s Land Cover Maps plus observations of vegetation from the air identified existing habitats and gaps between them, while data from the Biological Records Centre (BRC) provided information about populations of plant and animal species.
Mr Redhead said connecting previously fragmented habitats in the landscape would enable plant and animal populations to interact, and so become more resilient to a changing environment.
He said: “I am pleased to see the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology’s data being used by Highways England for practical benefit for wildlife, enabling it to carry out targeted planting.
“The scheme has ensured that the roads can be assets to connectivity between habitats and not barriers.”