Current Projects and Surveys

Devon Biodiversity Record Centre manage and participate in a wide range of projects year on year.  With funding in shorter supply across the environmental sector the value we can add to projects has increased.  Our desktop mapping and analysis skills can help target conservation efforts more effectively.  If you are developing a project, discuss your data management or mapping needs with us at this early stage so that adequate funding is included in your bid.

These are some of the current projects we are working on. Some of these are annual projects, whereas others are long term multi-year projects.


Biodiversity Monitoring Framework

Many of our most important wildlife sites or areas of priority habitat aren’t statutorily designated, for example within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), but are identified within a non-statutory framework run by DBRC in partnership with Devon Wildlife Trust and Devon County Council.

Since 2009, DBRC has led a county-wide monitoring program focusing on these County Wildlife Sites (CWS), where we aim to resurvey sites approximately every 10 years. However, some CWSs have not been revisited since their initial designation in the early 1990s due to a lack of resources for resurvey by the project, or changes in ownership which means we cannot contact the landowners. However, DBRC has now seen more than 1000 sites since the project started, and the results of the surveys help us keep track of changes to our landscape at a fine resolution, and report on the state of our environment in Devon.

There are over 2000 CWS, totalling over 30,000 hectares of land (5% of Devon) this equals the area protected within statutory sites, however, we also have a similar amount of potential sites which have yet to be surveyed and designated. Its vitally important that these sites are seen periodically, as they are representative of what’s happening to our biodiversity landscape, and can act as a barometer for climate change, the efficacy of changes in policy, and in our understanding of nature’s resilience to change.

Due to the scale of the challenge, and to try to increase the number of sites we are collecting information on, this year we have also started to work with community volunteers within a number of parishes.  These volunteers already have a degree of expertise, but DBRC is providing additional training and support, so that their local knowledge, contacts, energy & enthusiasm can help us to survey and map some of the most valuable sites within their area.  Whilst designating more CWS is a primary focus of this collaboration, in many cases the knowledge that areas of priority habitat exist will be just as important. Mapping these habitats will allow DBRC to include them within the developing Nature Recovery Network project, and provide a better picture of how Devon is fairing against the current challenges to our biodiversity.

Making links with existing groups is key, and their expertise and efforts can add greatly to the work our own surveyors can undertake.  The ‘Action for Teignbridge’ (ACT) Wildlife Warden scheme is a prime example of where this collaboration can work effectively.  DBRC has suppoted the growth of the group, supplying resources and specialist skills, which will help around 20 of their volunteers undertake surveys of one form or another.  It also allows for skills sharing and an increase in understanding of the need to record biodiversity, so that that evidence can support decision making, locally, regionally, and nationally.

We hope to expand this approach year on year, and already have a number of parishes in South and East Devon that we hope to start working with next season.  If your parish would like to engage with this initiaitive, and would like to find out more feel free to contact either Jess Smallcombe- or Ian Egerton –

YearNo. Sites surveyedRed conditionAmber conditionGreen condition
2016 – 176312%69%19%
2017 – 1813720%49%20%
2018 – 19659%42%49%
Example summary of survey outcomes from 2016 to 2018

Conservation Communities Project – DWT/DBRC:

This project builds on many years of landscape-scale work in North Devon by both of our organisations, including the development of biodiversity audits by DBRC for numerous parishes within the NIA project.  In October 2019 we secured funding through the National Lottery Heritage Fund, to work in 11 of those parishes, supporting local residents and community groups to get involved in a range of biodiversity led initiatives, which will greatly improve our collective understanding of the species and habitats there.  Residents will be able to attend a range of training workshops, walks and talks, and alongside local experts, individuals and volunteer groups will be supported in a range of nature-based activities.  These include setting up long term monitoring of indicator species, such as otters and dormice, sharing knowledge on nature-friendly verge management, pond creation and improving access to nature for local residents. You can find out more at the project website.

Conservation Communities Project Area

Green Minds – DWT/Plymouth City Council

Following on from several recent community based green space initiatives by the city council and DWT, this European funded project will be working within a new, wider partnership. It aims to breathe new life into a number of community spaces, ranging from traditional parks to strategic green corridors, increasing peoples enjoyment, and understanding of the nature benefits good management with local input can bring.  DBRC will be monitoring sites, alongside citizen science elements developed with local residents.  Training and mentoring will enable interested individuals and groups to be supported in learning about species and habitats, and how they can be protected and have increased resilience into the future. If you would like to learn more about the project, you can visit the project website here.

Tamara Landscape Partnership project

After a highly successful development phase, this project has now been granted its main funding grant, and over the next few years will deliver a range of cross cutting, historical & natural environment, and social/enterprise initiatives. These will help increase the areas resilience to climate change, and its ability to rise to the economic challenges many sectors locally, currently face.

The project is funded through the New Heritage Lottery Fund and offers the partnership the opportunity to focus on elements such as farming and land management challenges, alongside flooding, access, enjoyment of the landscape, its increased resilience, and nature, alongside the historic environment.  In addition, it will work with local businesses and traditional micro initiatives such as Tamar Grow Local, which seek to create jobs and investment in the Tamar Valley, by harnessing just one of the valleys long-established, but often undervalued strengths. 

DBRC are central to many of the biodiversity sub-projects, providing ecological skills, biodiversity data gathering and management resources, and existing data and evidence.  Our first task has been to undertake habitat audits of four of the Nodal Farms, that are partnering the project.  This is through a mix of remote sensed aerial photo interpretation of the land holdings, liaising with the landowners to identify focus areas, and ground-truthing through field based survey.  These baselines will then help each holding plan any interventions and monitor changes through the extent of the project, as re-surveys are planned in the final year. Click here to visit the project website.

Devon Nature Recovery Networks

During the last 12 months, DBRC has led on the technical development of the Nature Recovery Network mapping in Devon, on behalf of a broad partnership.  The overall project is being driven by Devon Wildlife Trust, and Devon County Council, with support from local authorities, conservation NGOs, statutory agencies and a range of stakeholders.  Whilst the mapping forms a central part of the project, other strands will include ensuring that appropriate community and landowner support, and information is accessible.  The success of this project will rely on people and businesses engaging from all sectors, across the county, and whilst some areas of the national framework are still in their infancy, the forthcoming Environment Bill, will further focus effort in Devon, and within the UK. You can visit the Devon LNP website for more information.

A sample image of the Combined Habitat Layer and Core Nature Areas layers produced for the NRN by DBRC.

Networks for Nature

Working for Highways England, and in partnerhsip with DWT & Animex, DBRC will be using its data to model areas within our counties A road network, where significant species mortality, pinch points in connectivity (their movement through the landscape) and other challenges occur, due to these routes and associated traffic/infrastructure.  Using modelling techniques which include Habitat Suitability Mapping and Landscape Fragmentation/Connectivity mapping, we will be able to help identify areas where interventions may have a positive impact.  These may include culverted underpasses, green bridges, tree planting or other techniques.  We are just about to start the project and more information will be available as its progresses. 

The top right image is a proof-of-concept model from the project using low resolution data to identify isolated habitat patches. Red represents areas of habitat, the colour fading to white represents the range of dispersal of our model species based on the underlying terrain. As the project continues we will refine this dataset to produce a more accurate, high resolution dataset.

Grand Western Canal Macrophyte Survey

This summer, DBRC have been commissioned to undertake a survey of aquatic plants within the canal, to assist in the ongoing management program of this rich biodiverity resource in Mid Devon.  Whilst canals are seen as static waterways, there are still a number of vectors through which invasive plants can get into their systems, and other challenges associated with the surrounding land and its management/use.  Its therefore important to monitor the flora of the canal to indicate its condition and direction of travel, which can include certain species becoming too dominant and out competing others.  The canal is home to a vast array of invertebrates, mammals and bird species, and the balance that exists between these and the demands placed upon it by recreational use need careful consideration.

An image from the riverbank of the Tiverton Canal

Fursdon Estate – Grassland and Woodland Surveys

Supporting the DWT Working Wetlands team, DBRC has been undertaking a range of surveys within this rural estate.  Home to historic parkland and veteran trees, the landscape there also supports a number of unimproved grassland sites, all rich in biodiveristy and vitally important within such a heavily modified farming landscape, such as Mid Devon.  Our surveys will help with the estates efforts to plan restoration areas, and work alongside the DWT team to increase water quality in the streams and river nearby.

A veteran tree on the Fursdon Estate. Image credit: Paul Seymour 2022