Devon Nature Recovery Network Map

For an overview of the Devon NRN and map please watch the recording of the Devon NRN webinar held on 30th November 2021.  Ed Parr Ferris (Devon Wildlife Trust) gave a presentation on the Devon NRN mapping project (starts at 33 minutes)

  • Purpose

    The Devon NRN Map is being developed as one of the strategic tools to help us achieve a Nature Recovery Network of wildlife rich habitats across Devon. The map will help to ensure that everyone is aware of existing wildlife habitats, networks and priorities across the county. Uses include:

    • Informing Local Plans, Neighbourhood Plans and Planning applications
    • Targeting funding e.g. Biodiversity Net Gain, ELM (environmental land management payments) and funding for habitat creation linked to benefits such as carbon sequestration, flood control, water quality improvements and recreation/tourism (known as Payments for Ecosystem Services).
    • Targeting conservation effort.
    • Avoiding impacts on sensitive habitats e.g. through tree planting
  • Principles
    • Nature first.  The primary focus of the map is to ensure nature’s recovery.
    • Can be used by everyone.  The map should be used to help with all land use decisions in Devon (farming, development, tree planting etc).  It must therefore be understandable to everyone.  Please let us know if it isn’t.
    • Nature everywhere!  We want everyone to take action for wildlife everywhere – not just in mapped and high priority areas. Fantastic opportunities may well arise outside any priority areas and these should be grasped!
    • Allow for change.  The map is just a tool.  Where possible we need to allow habitats to evolve and change within landscapes whilst also maintaining important wildlife habitats such as ancient hedges, heathland and species rich meadows.
  • Health warning

    The NRN map is work in progress and there will unfortunately be mapping errors. If you see anything significant  please do let us know by emailing Ed Parr Ferris at  Where there are existing errors we will do our best to highlight them in the Components section below.

    Please remember that not all wildlife habitats in Devon have been mapped.   Don’t assume that just because a parcel of land is not mapped as a Core Nature Area / Nature Area that it has no wildlife value – as it could be a Priority Habitat or support rare species.  If habitats are missing please tell us about them.

  • How to view the Devon NRN Map

    The Devon NRN Map is hosted on Devon County Council’s Environment Viewer.  The viewer gives access to spatial (geographic) data for Devon on a wide range of topics including Ecology & Geology, Flood Risk, Historic Environment, Landscape, Planning and Public Access.

    When you access the Viewer please first read the Tips for using the viewer on the landing page to ensure that you understand the basics (including how to access data using the layers button in the top right of the screen)   To go directly to the NRN Map click on Devon Nature Recovery Network Map in the list.  Before the viewer opens fully you need to read and agree with the Terms and Conditions.  If you are a commercial user please contact Devon Biodiversity Records Centre to discuss the need for a licence or agreement before using any wildlife data.

    When you have read and ticked that you agree to the Terms and Conditions the Viewer will open showing the Core Nature Areas (be aware that there is a slight time lag of ~ 30 seconds before the layer opens over the base map).  See ‘Components’ below for an explanation of Core Nature Areas and other layers on the NRN Map.

    If you click the cursor over a layer on the map an information box will pop up providing headline information for that layer and a link to Further information on habitatsThis explains the different habitat types shown (document to be added shortly).

    To open other NRN layers click on the ‘layer list’ tab in the top right-hand corner of the screen.  This will then give you a drop down menu of the NRN layers as well as other data (ecology, landscape, flood risk etc).  Remember to refer to the Tips on the previous landing page.  If you have problems please email

    To obtain more detailed information on habitats shown on the Viewer please contact Devon Biodiversity Records Centre.  Note that are likely to have to charge a small amount for this information.

  • Components of the Devon NRN Map

    * for an explanation of habitats, designations etc see Further information on habitats.

    Core Nature Areas

    Core Nature Areas are our richest wildlife habitats.  They include *Priority Habitats (excluding hedges and arable margins) and *statutory and non-statutory designated sites such as Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, National Nature Reserves and Ancient semi-natural woodlands.  Habitats are grouped together and mapped as *Broad Habitats (grasslands, woodlands, wetlands etc).

    Actions required:  Protect, enhance, expand and connect.

    Health warning:  Many Core Nature Areas are composed of a mosaic of habitats.  In most cases, where all habitat layers are ticked, the dominant habitat will be shown on the map e.g. the Pebblebed Heaths will be shown as Broad Habitat type ‘heathland and shrub’ which is purple.  However there may be a few cases where the habitat is shown as a non-dominant habitat – we are in the process of checking and correcting this.   Note that if not all habitat layers are ticked then other non dominant habitats will be shown e.g. if ‘heathland and shrub’ isn’t ticked then the Pebblebeds will appear as blue ‘rivers and lakes’ due to the water bodies found across the area.  Again we may amend this.

    To find out whether any Core Nature Areas are designated sites click on other layers under the Ecology and Geology heading.  To find out if they are Priority Habitats click on the UK Priority Habitats Inventory layer (at the top of the list of layers).  Note that this national dataset is not perfect.

    Nature Areas

    Nature Areas are existing habitats which have wildlife value (or potential value) but which are not Priority Habitats or designated sites.  These currently include: *Other Sites of Wildlife Importance, parks, urban greenspaces, some churchyards, National Nature Reserves, Local Nature Reserves and non-Priority Habitats on the National Forest Inventory.   Other habitats will be included in future iterations when data is available.

    Actions required:  Restore, protect, enhance, expand and connect.

    Habitat Suitability Mapping

    Identifies the habitats most suited to the physical characteristics of that ‘area’ based on underlying geology, soils and landscape. Primary habitats are those most likely to be present in an ‘area’ if it was in a near-natural state.  The options of an open (grazed) habitat (based on *Priority habitats) and a wooded habitat (based on *NVC Communities) are given as both could be possible depending on management. Secondary habitats represent the next most likely habitat.  Again an open and wooded option is given.

    Other habitats which could occur in that area, but often with a more localised distribution, are also listed in the information box for each ‘area’.   These may require certain conditions such as wet flushes or occur where human activity has altered soils e.g. lowland meadow in place of acid grassland where sols have been heavily limed and manured. .

    This range of habitat options is given as, in order to maximise benefits for wildlife, we need a mosaic of different habitats across our landscapes which are allowed to evolve and change over time.

    Habitats vary hugely.  For example Lowland Meadow may be drier or wetter, slightly acid or calcareous, depending on where it is in the landscape.  It is possible to better understand which Lowland Meadow is most likely to be created by looking at the open and wooded component of the Primary habitat as well as the characteristics of the Secondary habitat proposed for that area.  If the Secondary habitat is dry and acidic then Lowland Meadow in that area is likely to be dry and more acidic.

    Agricultural (through the use of fertilisers and lime) can change soil characteristics and may mean that the restoration of habitats takes more time (e.g. to reduce fertility) or in some cases that top soils need to be removed.

    The ‘areas’ mapped follow the boundaries of Devon’s *Landscape Character Types, tweaked where there are clear soil type changes.

    This layer is for guidance only and should not replace on-the ground expert assessment.

    Actions required:  Restore / create.

    Nature Recovery Areas 

    Areas of countryside with higher than average concentrations of Core Nature Areas and where landscape-scale restoration of habitats will contribute significantly to nature recovery across Devon. This layer currently includes the Strategic Nature Areas (SNAs) originally mapped for the South West Nature Map. The SNAs will be reviewed, particularly in the light of work being undertaken by the National Parks and AONBs. More information, including Profiles of each SNA and the methodology behind them, can be found on the Devon Biodiversity Records Centre website.

    Actions required:  Landscape scale restoration, expansion, connection.

  • Further information on habitats and designations

    The further information on habitats document explains the terms used to describe habitats and designations.  It also explains the relationship between broad habitat types, Priority Habitats and National Vegetation Classification communities.

  • Potential future components

    Further phases of work will add more data to the maps and identify further priority areas for action.  Future layers may include:

    Rivers and coastal Habitat Suitability Mapping.  Current mapping fails to pick up more detailed features around riparian and coastal habitats.  British Geological Survey superficial geology data will be used to do more refined mapping for these habitats.

    Linear habitats.  Including Devon hedges, ditches, railways, road verges etc

    Supporting habitat for species:  Habitats which are not designated but which are ecologically linked to designated sites or critical in the lifecycle of rare species e.g. high tide roosts along the Exe Estuary and Sustenance Zones (feeding areas) around greater and lesser horseshoe bat maternity / hibernation roosts.

    Priority areas for key species assemblages / rare species e.g woodland birds, butterflies.

    Connectivity mapping

    Priorities for carbon sequestration

    Priorities for Natural Flood Management

    Historic habitats.  Ecological features will be captured from historic maps such as the 1840 tithe maps.

  • Targets and monitoring

    Government has set targets for nature’s recovery in its 25 Year Environment Plan (now a statutory requirement through the Environment Act 2021).  Devon targets and monitoring will be developed as part of the Devon Local Nature Recovery Strategy.

  • Governance

    Work on the Devon NRN Map was initiated by Devon Wildlife Trust and is being undertaken under the umbrella of the Devon LNP.  The following organisations form the Steering Group (* = a funding partner):

    Devon Wildlife Trust* (Project lead), Devon Biodiversity Records Centre* (Technical mapping), Devon County Council* (Chair, Project support and Environment Viewer), North Devon District Council*, Teignbridge District Council*, South Hams District Council*, Plymouth City Council, Natural England*, Environment Agency*, Forestry Commission,  AONBs*, Dartmoor National Park Authority*, Woodland Trust*, RSPB and the North Devon Biosphere.   All other Devon Local Authorities are also helping to fund the mapping work.

  • Contacts

    Devon NRN Map (project and technical lead):  Ed Parr Ferris –

    Devon Local Nature Recovery Strategy (and Chair of NRN Mapping Grp): Sarah Jennings –