Providing a sound evidence base to inform policy development and decisions, and making data and information more accessible to you - our users - is at the core of what Scotland's environment web is all about. So I'm sure you'll understand why we're pleased to be able to tell you about two new additions to our website - the Habitat Map of Scotland, a great new composite map tool, pulling together habitat and land use data to help support policy and management decisions, and the Ecosystem health indicators section, providing valuable information on the status of our ecosystems.
We asked Philippa Vigano and David O'Brien from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to tell us more.
Last week saw the launch of the Habitat Map of Scotland (HabMoS) - a comprehensive EUNIS (European Nature Information System) map for Scotland where all available habitat data can be managed and published.
The map draws on 770 sites surveys, four national habitat surveys and all available land use data, to display data using Annex I habitats classifications as described under the Habitats Directive. The data used includes the Forestry Commission Native Woodland Survey, which has been used to map our woodlands, and data from national surveys to help map our coastal habitats. As new data becomes available, HabMoS will be updated dynamically to ensure we have as accurate a picture of Scotland's habitats as possible.
As well as providing a powerful tool for analysis, planning and policy development, an exciting part of the project has been the mapping of some of Scotland's most important habitats, notably Caledonian forest, Machair, Old sessile oak woods and Alluvial forest.
This is the first time that all the available habitat data has been re-classified using EUNIS and Annex 1 classifications and managed so you can view it together. And although the data originates from many different sources, we've recorded where the data came from so you always know exactly what you're looking at.
To see the data, the best place to start is on the 'Our environment - Habitat Map of Scotland' page of the Scotland's environment website. Here, you'll also find more information about the map and the data layers available.
You can view the data on HabMoS on the Scotland's environment website.
The Scotland's environment website also now has a new section on Ecosystem health indicators, measures that help us to understand where action should be taken to restore ecosystem health and associated benefits.
People are part of ecosystems. We benefit from the services they provide; from clean water to the health benefits of a walk in the woods. So how 'healthy' they are is important.
Ecosystem health is a measure of status of ecosystems through a combination of three inter-related elements:
We hope that these indicators will be useful for policy makers, government agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), researchers and communities. Most of the indicators present data by river catchment and some can be zoomed down to individual sites.
The indicators were drawn up by an expert panel of scientists at the request of the then, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment, Richard Lochhead.
You can find the new Ecosystem health indicators under the 'Our environment' section of the Scotland's environment website.
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