Step 2: Diagnose the current situation

Requirements:

  • The ecoprofiles and associated spatial requirements from step 1
  • Maps of the planning area and its environs

Result:

  • Maps of the current ecological networks of the ecoprofiles
  • Classification of the sustainability of these networks

What does this entail?

Locating the current habitat patches and ecological networks of the ecoprofiles and determining their sustainability.

For example: If the nature conservation objective is marsh, with the ambition being a sustainable network for the Reed Warbler, the following questions arise: At this moment, where are the suitable habitat patches for the Reed Warbler located? Which habitat patches together form a network? Which have enough capacity for a local population? Between which habitat patches does exchange occur incidentally? Which habitat patches are too far away? And are the current area and cohesion of habitat patches in the ecological network(s) sustainable? Comparing the current sustainability with the desired nature conservation objective and ambition level makes the design process clear.

Implementation

Ecologists, preferably with local knowledge, locate the current habitat patches of the selected ecoprofiles. For this they require good maps of the planning area giving information about the habitat patches and their quality (e.g. vegetation, water quality, built-up areas, watercourses, roads). Support from a GIS expert is therefore desirable during the preparatory phase. The diagnosing can be done in a workshop attended by local experts and stakeholders (including stakeholders in functions other than nature conservation).

The diagnosis may reveal that the selection of ecoprofiles in step 1 was not optimal because the situation in the area is better – or worse – than expected. If this is the case, the nature conservation objective can be changed by selecting another ecoprofile that has higher or lower spatial requirements, and step 2 can be reiterated.

Resources

a) Rules for making a diagnosis:

These enable the ecological cohesion of the habitat patches of an ecoprofile to be determined and the current situation to be diagnosed.

b) The LARCH computer model:

You can also use LARCH to analyse the ecological cohesion of habitat patches in detail. The drawbacks are that this takes longer than using the rules for making a diagnosis and that more precise data are required. The advantages of LARCH are that the output is more detailed and that the sustainability of the spatial solutions from steps 3 and 4 can be calculated and compared.