Assessing the use of GIS to produce woodland creation historic environment opportunity/targeting maps

    • Client: Forestry Commission
    • Location: National
    • Date: 31 March 2023

Our team have recently undertaken two projects with the Forestry Commission. These explored the use of GIS in understanding, assessing and mapping the historic environment with regard to future planting strategy. 

This research project explored how GIS datasets have and might be used to produce historic environment/woodland creation opportunity, sensitivity and/or targeting mapping, with a view to developing approaches that could be applied relatively quickly and cost effectively across England.

Our team undertook a phase of research to see if and how GIS has been used previously to include historic environment data in opportunity and targeting map.

Engagement with stakeholders from across the forestry and historic environment sectors was integral to this piece of work. We spoke with representatives of key projects that had been identified as useful to this research, to better understand the methods and approaches that they used in their assessments, and to gain insight into strengths and weaknesses.

Our team also hosted two online workshops at key milestones within the project, The first presented the research and sought views on GIS approaches that could be used to understand woodland creation opportunities and sensitivities. The second discussed the outcomes of the trials. These workshops were attended by cross-discipline representatives, including Historic England, Natural England, Environment Agency, Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers (ALGAO), The Woodland Trust, Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, Council for British Archaeology, universities working on similar projects, and LNRS project teams.

Datasets assessed included:

  • Historic Environment Data
  • Aerial investigation and Mapping/National Mapping Programme data
  • National and local Historic Landscape Characterisation, Ancient Woodland Inventory,
  • Designated heritage assets and
  • Local biological record data.

Not all datasets were taken forward for trails.

Our GIS Specialist undertook trial GIS approaches within four study areas across the country, in Essex, Devon, the Lake District and Northumberland.

This included examining the usefulness of varying buffers with the aim of creating GIS open spaces around HER heritage assets, with specific buffer size assigned to each record based on Monument Type. Work was also completed using SHINE datasets in the pilot areas, to establish how useful the dataset is in its current form to inform woodland creation location choices. GIS based methods were also tested for identifying areas of former woodland where restoration or replanting maybe appropriate. Queries were run on datasets such as HLC to identify areas of historic and ancient woodland.

The GIS methodology and queries/filters were fully documented, to reproduce within the report and allow future approaches to utilise and build on the findings.

Our final report included recommendations on which approach worked most successfully, what could be rolled out nationally and possible costs for national rollout.