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Monitoring and Evaluating

Monitoring and Evaluating

A framework for the South Downs National Park

Introduction

Monitoring is a key part of the nature recovery programme, helping to record changes to habitats and species as a result of our interventions.

To assist with this we have developed a biodiversity monitoring framework for the South Downs National Park, which draws on a broad assessment of our current positon covering five monitoring areas and establishes a set of recommendations and actions that will allow us to present a coherent picture of the state of biodiversity in the National Park.

Delivering monitoring of species and habitats relies on working in partnership with a range of national and local partners and especially the input of the Local biodiversity record centres.  We will, therefore develop the details of our habitat and species assessment in collaboration and with support from  these key partners.

The five areas are habitat extent, habitat condition, species, projects and planning.    The specific detail of some of this monitoring is still being developed and future iterations and will adapt to emerging drivers and lessons learnt.

We have established a number of key principles that underpin the framework;

  • This is an overarching framework, a detailed approach to each survey and methodologies will evolve over time
  • The resulting approach needs to be agreed with key partners who will contribute towards monitoring effort where relevant
  • The approach will have limitations and has to be selective as we cannot monitor everything
  • Where possible we will use national approaches to monitoring to enable comparisons of data in and outside the National Park

What questions are we trying to answer?

  • What is the extent and condition of habitats within the NP?
  • How much have we improved or expanded key habitats?
  • How are our habitats contributing to climate change and resilience?
  • What species populations have been enhanced and by how much?
  • How does the state of biodiversity compare within the SDNP to outside the boundary?

Habitat Extent

  • What is the extent of habitats within South Downs National Park?
  •  How are our habitats contributing to climate change and resilience?

Approach to habitat extent

  • Work with local record centres to further develop locally derived Broad Habitat Mapping
  • Develop a data collection and sharing protocol to get on the ground knowledge and work fed into the Record Centre Broad Habitat mapping
  • Continue to sense check the local habitat map against nationally available data sets such as satellite data on land cover.

Habitat Condition

  • What is the condition of habitats within the SDNP?
  • Are priority habitats inside the SDNP in a better condition than those outside?
  • How are our habitats contributing to climate change and resilience?
  • Has the condition of priority habitats improved over time?

Approach to habitat condition

  • Establish a South Downs definition for ‘good condition’
  • Develop techniques for rapid habitat assessment and a survey schedule of priority habitats
  • Work with partners to gather condition data of publicly and eNGO held assets

Species

  • How are priority species performing in the SDNP?
  • Are priority species doing better in the SDNP than outside?
  • How many INNS have declined/been controlled/increased within the SDNP?
  • Have any species populations moved north into the SDNP from the continent?
  • Is farmland more bio-diverse within the SDNP?

Approach to Species Monitoring

  • Undertake a South Downs species prioritisation exercise to define scope for species monitoring (including invasive non-native species)
  • Adopt up to five national species recording schemes that best represent the priority species for national benchmarking.  (for example farmland birds,  butterflies, national plant monitoring )
  • Develop a monitoring plan for each priority species group
  • Nominate a champion for each species group who will own and manage the monitoring plan

Projects and habitat management

  • How many ha of priority habitat have been restored?
  • How many sites and/or habitats (ha) condition has improved after management or intervention?
  • At what point is a habitat considered restored?

Approach to recording projects and habitat management

  • Ensure all projects related to habitat management and restoration complete a biodiversity monitoring plan
  • Register all projects and action in a central database with a spatial attribute to facilitate mapping
  • Use a consistent system to monitor day-to-day activity
  • Species-specific projects should have time limited monitoring plans; where possible the methods used in project monitoring should complement generic park wide methods.

 Planning

  • There are several major requirements for biodiversity monitoring within our planning system, these include local wildlife sites, biodiversity net gain and offsetting projects.

Approach to Planning Biodiversity Monitoring

  • Record BNG and other planning related works in the project database
  • Continue current LWS provision via local record centres
  • Adopt a multi-tiered approach to LWS monitoring so that all sites are at least visited in a 10- year cycle

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" The Downs...too much for one pair of eyes, enough to float a whole population in happiness. "