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Environmental sensitivity mapping

Environmental  sensitivity map, BGS©NERC

Environmental sensitivity mapping

Environmental sensitivity mapping provides a strategic overview of the environmental and cultural assets in a region. The mapping technique integrates numerous datasets into a single composite layer in a Geographical Information System (GIS). Environmental sensitivity mapping is a rapid, objective and straightforward method of identifying areas which may be particularly sensitive to development based on the environmental and cultural assets present.

Environmental sensitivity mapping is used in land–use planning for minerals and other forms of development. It may be used both to aid, and explain decision–making in consultation processes. It can form part of the Strategic Environmental Assessment process and, more specifically, the environmental appraisal of plans and policies for aggregates provision.

Environmental and cultural assets

Environmental and cultural assets can be anything that society places a value on. They are numerous and diverse, and include National Parks, Local Nature Reserves and Scheduled Ancient Monuments. These are not only valued by society for their landscape, biodiversity and heritage quality, but also for their recreational, educational and tourism value. Only those assets digitally available have been used in the environmental sensitivity map (see full list).

Online environmental sensitivity mapping

Online environmental sensitivity mapping can be viewed for the East Midlands Region using the Regional Minerals Information Online GIS. The environmental sensitivity layer is only visible over 1:250,000 scale via the online system and as a 100 hectare polygon grid.

Background to the environmental sensitivity mapping project

Phase I of the BGS research project, Strategic Environmental Assessment and future aggregates extraction in the East Midlands Region aimed to develop the environmental sensitivity technique. The focus of the project was the relationship between aggregates and environmental sensitivity. Phase II of the research focused on providing environmental sensitivity data for the East Midlands Region online. Since the completion of Phase II the BGS has successfully mapped the environmental sensitivity of England, Scotland and Wales.

Dissemination seminars were held in January 2005 in London, Nottingham and Leeds. An additional seminar was held in April 2005 in Belfast. Click on the links below to view the presentations given at the seminars.

Limitations and technical information

The environmental sensitivity layer in the GIS can only make use of those datasets that have been mapped and that are digitally available. For this reason there is a bias towards nature conservation and landscape type assets. However, the system is flexible and new data can be easily added as it becomes available.

All the datasets are converted to a grid in the GIS. The use of grids generalises the data so it is not possible to view site specific boundaries of individual assets. Some of the assets are available as separate data layers in the online Regional Minerals Information Online GIS (link to county mapping). An index of all the data providers, along with contact details, can be accessed via the alphabetical list of environmental and cultural assets.

The environmental sensitivity mapping methodology was developed by the BGS with co-funding from the Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF) distributed by the MIST Programme.

British Geological Survey logoMIST logo

MAgiC A web-based interactive map service that brings together environmental information from across government.

Nature on the Map An interactive mapping website from Natural England.