Nature networks: a summary for practitioners.

Published online
19 Jan 2021
Published by
Natural England
Content type

Crick, H. & Crosher, I. & Mainstone, C. & Taylor, S. & Wharton, A. & Langford, P. & Larwood, J. & Lusardi, J. & Appleton, D. & Brotherton, P. & Duffield, S. & Macgregor, N.
Contact email(s) &

Publication language
UK & England


This summary for practitioners aims to provide a quick reference guide to support the development of Nature Networks. It is based on the extensive review of evidence presented in the Nature Networks Evidence Handbook by Natural England (NERR081; Crick et al. 2020). The guide's focus is on the creation of Nature Networks on land rather than at sea, though there are aspects of the approach that will be relevant to the marine environment. We outline 10 principles of nature network design, derived from the review of evidence. These explain how the planning of resilient nature networks should aim to reflect how habitats and associated species are naturally provided for by the geography and geology of the landscape, and consider how this can benefit local communities and the wider public. In particular, there are benefits to be derived from developing a 'network way of thinking' rather than concentrating on sites in isolation. A detailed review of ecological evidence allows us to provide a suite of 'rules of thumb' that provide detail about how to make a network of sites for nature 'better, bigger, more and joined' (as outlined originally by Lawton et al. (2010) in their Making Space for Nature report to the UK Government). In general, the direction of travel for nature conservation, when designing nature networks, is from a highly managed countryside to one in which conservationists restore and work with natural processes and embrace dynamisim. As a part of working with natural processes at a landscape scale, it is important to understand how the geology and soils contribute to an area's ecological functioning and provide valuable ecosystem services. Their active inclusion in nature network planning can help improve a nature network's contribution to nature-based solutions, particularly to build resilience to future climate change. Implementation of a nature network can be enhanced by working effectively with the planning system, and with land-owners through encouraging the use of agri-environment schemes (particularly for wider-countryside species) and green infrastructure development (particularly within urban areas). Finally, we provide a brief synopsis of a range of map-based models and tools that can provide useful support for decision-making during the planning and implementation of nature networks.

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