NWT Cley and Salthouse Marshes, photo by Richard Osbourne

Biodiversity audit aims to catalogue every wildlife species on north Norfolk coast

Tuesday 01 September, 2020

A huge biodiversity audit to catalogue the north Norfolk coast’s wildlife, in a similar way to the 2010 Brecks audit, will guide future management on how to protect it.

A consortium of more than 20 land managers has formed a working partnership called the North Norfolk Coastal Group to devise a joined-up strategy alongside a host of nature organisations including Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the RSPB, the Environment Agency, the National Trust, the Norfolk Rivers Trust and Natural England.

The Biodiversity Audit is a framework for conservation management developed by researchers at the University of East Anglia. Unlike traditional approaches that typically focus on a small set of ‘flagship’ species, the Audit provides a comprehensive analysis of the full spectrum of species inhabiting a region, defining their importance in regional and national contexts, and identifying their precise habitat requirements. 

Crucially, auditing provides a set of simplified prescriptions for integrated management, identifying key actions on the ground that can benefit guilds of priority species with shared requirements. At the same time, auditing provides an evidence base to inform managers about ecosystem services such as Carbon sequestration and flood protection, allowing them to value and quantify synergies and trade-offs from different management approaches.

One of the researchers working on the project is Dr James Gilroy, from the UEA School of Environmental Sciences, who said: “For the first time, the audit will put a number to the untold thousands of species found on the Norfolk coast, and synthesize this information to provide evidence to guide actions on the ground that can benefit guilds of priority species with shared requirements.

“Unlike traditional conservation approaches that typically focus on a small set of ‘flagship’ species, biodiversity auditing provides a comprehensive analysis of the full spectrum of species inhabiting the landscape – including the thousands of cryptic invertebrates and plants that ultimately make up the bulk of diversity in each habitat. The audit defines the importance of each of these species in regional and national contexts, and identifies their precise habitat requirements.”

Previous Biodiversity Audits now underpin multiple landscape-scale conservation initiatives in the UK, with a focus on evidence-based interventions that can rapidly deliver positive results. 

In Breckland an Audit undertaken in 2010 now underpins landscape-scale management by Forestry Commission England, plus one of the largest HLS agreements in lowland England (at STANTA) and was essential in establishing a Breck farmers cluster who recently led a successful bid for a Defra ELMS Tier 3 Test project, now being conducted in collaboration with UEA.

By conducting a comprehensive Biodiversity Audit for the Norfolk Coast, we plan to provide a detailed and accessible evidence base to guide decision-making in the region, helping land managers to identify, value and protect each facet of this unique landscape. Our hope is to provide the information needed to ensure that the Norfolk Coast maintains and enhances its status as a thriving, biodiverse and productive landscape in decades to come.
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