February 15, 2024

UK Consultancy Develops GIS-based Habitat Mapping App

The app is targeted at AEC companies to manage the environmental impact of new project development plans and comply with new legislation in a highly accurate and efficient way.

Temple is an independent UK-based infrastructure and property consultancy, specializing in environment, ecology, planning, and sustainability. The company joined Esri UK partner network as a Silver Partner, which enables them to use Esri’s GIS technology to develop new software solutions for their clients. The first result is the UKHab & BNG Survey web app that helps AEC companies make planning decisions and meet new environmental legislation to create and improve natural habitats. 

Measuring Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG)

In January 2024, new Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) legislation came into force in the UK. The legislation affects land managers, developers, and local planning authorities to make sure development has a measurably positive impact on biodiversity, compared to what was there before development. Temple’s new web app combines their vast experience in ecology and environmental impact assessments with Esri’s GIS technology to determine and deliver BNG, ensuring environmental sustainability and compliance with the new legislation. 

The web app offers a 2D mapping interface and a set of editing tools, so the user can create point, line, and polygon features used for habitat monitoring purposes. Habitat mapping is meant to assess both the positive and negative impacts of human activity on biodiversity and ecosystems. It is carried out by a wide range of academic, public, and professional ecologists and needs to provide a consistent basis for identifying and recording species assemblages and ecological communities. Temple is an official reseller of the UKHab ecology standard for digital products in the Esri platform and built the UKHab & BNG Survey App on ArcGIS Sweet, a data collection app with built-in configurable data quality checks.

Mapping habitats

In addition to creating point, line, and polygon features for habitat mapping, the new app offers the creation and visualization of UKHab map symbology for different habitats as specified in the UK Habitat Classification. This is a terrestrial and freshwater habitat-covering classification and is meant for use in a wide range of survey types from walkover surveys of small urban sites to regional and national scale rural habitat mapping. Additionally, newly created habitat features can be digitized and edited. It is for example possible to split and merge features. Topology rules guarantee there is no overlap between habitat features. A short video explains the GIS capabilities of the app. 

A second video shows how BNG is determined and delivered through the app. As the new biodiversity net gain (BNG) legislation demands that all new major construction projects deliver BNG of at least 110% (explained here), the app provides a real-time BNG score when performing habitat mapping. Additionally, the app enables the seamless use of existing UKHab surveys and conversion to BNG surveys. More information on how BNG affects UKHab is provided here. In addition to providing the technology to meet BNG metrics, Temple provides consultancy services including strategic offsetting and feasibility studies, baseline habitat surveys, biodiversity metric calculations, and more.

Upcoming new features

The app can be used across multiple devices (Android, iOS, and Windows), even when offline. This means that editing, processing, and digitizing of the data can happen outside of the office and that desktop GIS software is not necessary for additional steps. Additionally, Temple announced that additional functionality in the new web app will soon include scenario modeling, to make the comparison of potential designs more accessible and financial differences more quantifiable. Plans include applications aimed at specific sectors and their roles in BNG, including rural landowners, local government planning authorities, and land developers.

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