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Latest technology used to improve thousands of miles of lineside biodiversity - Network Rail

Habitat Map (image: Network Rail / UKCEH)
Habitat Map (image: Network Rail / UKCEH)

Scientists are using cutting-edge technology along Britain’s 20,000-mile rail network, as part of Network Rail’s new action plan for sustainable vegetation management.

The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) has used high-resolution imagery from satellites and aircraft to produce a detailed national map of all the habitats found alongside the rail network, which dates back almost 200 years. By combining this information with millions of records of species, UKCEH has predicted what animals and plants are likely to be present in these lineside habitats including grasslands, heathlands and woodland.
This information will ensure Network Rail workers and contractors are aware of the possible presence of rare species when carrying out vegetation management, plus inform the company’s conservation measures to increase biodiversity. It also provides a baseline for monitoring future trends in biodiversity.
This initiative is part of Network Rail’s new Biodiversity Action Plan – drawn up in collaboration with UKCEH scientists – which is an important step in achieving a sustainably managed lineside.
Since the 1960s, there have been large changes in vegetation associated with the railway, which has resulted in the loss of biodiverse, flower-rich habitats. In its plan, Network Rail has committed to end net loss in biodiversity on its land by 2024 and achieve a net gain by 2035.

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