Ecological Network and Wildlife Index progress

8th March 2022

One of the most important parts of the One City Ecological Emergency Strategy (OCEES) is analysing Bristol’s wildlife and habitat data to create baselines for improvement and identify gaps and opportunities to enhance resilience. It is crucial to have this data to measure whether implemented solutions are succeeding in reversing the decline of Bristol’s biodiversity. Since the OCEES was launched in September 2020, there has been progress in these areas throughout 2021.

Ecological Network

Following September 2020, a working group of One City partners commissioned Ecosulis, Rewilding and Nature Recovery Experts, to assess the state of ecological network mapping in Bristol and provide recommendations for modelling. Natural England provided £5000 to progress the Ecological Network research, matched by funding from Bristol City Council.

In their report, Ecosulis considered and suggested possible approaches that Bristol could take for Ecological Network modelling. Standard approaches focused on habitat composition and connectivity, while a pioneering approach encouraged integrating technology and ecology advance together for more ‘active’ models.

The working group agreed that a pioneered new approach is the goal, but standard modelling with additional data layers must first be undertaken. This first phase is being commissioned by Bristol City Council and subject to the appointment of a contractor. A completed model and public ecological network map are hoped to be ready for Autumn 2022. Once ready, this will then be followed by the next phase of analysis and data collection to start understanding gaps and opportunities in the existing ecological network.

Wildlife Index

The Wildlife Index is intended to provide a 'state of nature' in Bristol - a biodiversity baseline to measure progress against OCEES targets. The index will consist of data for a combination of individual species and species assemblages, predominantly collected through standardised methods developed through national and local monitoring schemes. 

The Index is a local version of the Living Planet Index. It seeks to include data for species that are: 

  • representative of the Bristol urban environment and the variety of habitats found within the City’s boundaries
  • of conservation concern, such as BAP species and those on red lists
  • non-native invasive species that are considered a potential threat to biodiversity 
  • useful indicators of wider environmental change. 

Work is currently underway by University of Bristol to collate the baseline 2018 data. This will take time due to the large number of sources of data from 17 different organisations and lack of current knowledge about how much data is available. A first draft of the Wildlife Index is hoped for summer 2022.

Bristol Nature Recovery Portal

The pioneering approach to the Ecological Network encourages integrating technology to generate ‘active’ ecological mapping models. A ‘Bristol Nature Recovery Portal’ (BNRP) has been conceived in the Ecosulis report as a potential form of digital civic infrastructure, intended to generate networks maps while empowering citizens to take an active role in nature recovery.

The platform envisages a web-based portal and dashboard, with a simple mobile app for straightforward citizen science data capture. Bristol Museums have been suggested as a possible logical home for the platform, as part of the growing collection and curation of digital objects within modern museums.

Ideas regarding the platform are at early stages of discussion but will be relevant once the initial modelling and Index work is complete. Until a digital portal is created, modelling will be held by Bristol City Council with mapping layers shared on Pinpoint. The Index will be available via the Ecological Emergency microsite while the work is progressed.

Citizen and Community Science Hubs

In addition to these developments, Natural History Consortium have outlined a project proposal for a ‘Wildlife Index Community Science Gateway’ (December 2021) to enable and empower residents to contribute to Ecological Emergency outcomes.

Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre (BRERC) are also currently developing Citizen Science hub for existing data and any new data that could be integrated with the Bristol Wildlife Index and developed as part of the Bristol Nature Recovery Portal.