Niches for species: a multi-species model to guide woodland management.
To protect biodiversity in the face of environmental change, there is a need to designate and manage areas of habitat for rare and threatened species. However, to identify the right areas usually requires detailed data on species distributions. Reliable data for rare and protected species are sparse as many species are cryptic and under-recorded. The challenge is greater when there are multiple species for which conservation decisions need to be taken within a habitat type. This Research Note describes how a model was developed to support woodland managers and policy makers in considering the conservation needs of protected species. The 'Niches for Species' model integrates species habitat requirements for multiple species and provides mapped outputs of their niches, and hence their potential occurrence in native woodlands. The Note presents the theoretical background to the creation of the model, and explains how it predicts the potential occurrence of species by linking species habitat requirements to spatial environmental data. The construction of the model from a classification of ecological niches using expert knowledge is described along with details of its validation testing and analysis of its strengths and weaknesses. The Niches for Species model may have many applications in forestry planning and management. Examples explored in this Note include its use in strategic targeting of conservation effort, comparing the likely benefits to biodiversity of different woodland expansion scenarios, visualising the configuration of species-rich and species-poor woodland, and highlighting the likely presence of a particular woodland species at a site.