Assessing habitat connectivity in environmental impact assessment: a case-study in the UK context

Laura Kor*, Ben O’Hickey, Matthew Hanson, Mihai Coroi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Ecological connectivity across landscapes is vital for the maintenance of biodiversity and the processes that enable life on earth. Despite this, environmental planning decisions are usually made at the scale of individual projects, failing to account for landscape-scale impacts. Incorporating habitat connectivity analysis in Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) could provide an opportunity to address this gap. We present a novel approach to model habitat connectivity in an EIA undertaken for the Heathrow Third Runway Expansion Project, a proposed development in south-east England. Drawing on field data, remote sensing, and species-specific literature reviews, a circuit theory approach was used to assess functional connectivity across the project landscape for grass snakes Natrix helvetica and soprano pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus. Results indicated key areas for species movement and potential ‘pinch-points’ vulnerable to development impacts. We discuss lessons learnt, potential applications to inform impact assessment, mitigation design, and biodiversity net gain approaches, and further work required to mainstream connectivity analyses in EIA and decision-making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-506
Number of pages12
JournalImpact Assessment and Project Appraisal
Volume40
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords

  • biodiversity net gain
  • circuitscape
  • Ecological connectivity
  • habitat fragmentation
  • Natrix helvetica
  • Pipistrellus pygmaeus

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