A spatial analysis of factors driving the location of different types of large conservation area

Authors and Affiliations: 

Robert Smith, DICE, University of Kent

Professor Bill Adams, University of Cambridge

Humphrey Crick, Natural England

Felix Eigenbrod, University of Southampton

Nick Macgregor, Natural England

Kristian Metcalfe, DICE, University of Kent

Zoe Davies, DICE, University of Kent


A series of high-profile government reports have emphasised the need to modify the present approach to conservation in England. They propose a more proactive perspective, which involves improving the coherence of ecological networks through landscape-scale habitat conservation and restoration. A key part of formulating this new policy involves understanding the costs, benefits and trade-offs of current approaches to developing conservation landscapes. As part of this, a recent review of large conservation areas in England identified a range of different approaches and developed a typology. These were based on land tenure and consisted of the following four broad categories: (i) land managed by a single owner; (ii) land managed by a small number of owners working in partnership; (iii) areas targeted for conservation schemes, such as High Level Stewardship, and; (iv) land managed by many owners, as part of specific conservation partnerships. However, any analysis of the benefits of these different approaches must first understand the underlying factors that drive where these large conservation areas are located. Here we address this issue by investigating the ecological and socio-economic factors that best predict the spatial distribution of these four types. We used data on National Character Areas, elevation, slope, landcover, accessibility, human population density and income, and found strong correlations between most of the explanatory variables. However, preliminary results show distinct differences in upland and lowland areas and suggest that any policy recommendations must consider local ecological and socio-economic conditions.