AN ambitious new project hopes to establish how wildlife and its habitats can have a beneficial effect on people’s lives.
Durham Wildlife Trust has embarked on the one-year pilot to examine the impact that nature can have on the economy and the health of the region.
The venture will use a Geographic Information System to map sites where the public can enjoy nature including those with beautiful views and where people can carry out recreational activities.
Project officer Chloe Bellamy said: “Our experience as a Trust is that accessible countryside and nature reserves provide opportunities for exploration and learning about the natural environment.
“To help us value and protect these areas, we first need to understand how different sites combine together to deliver these services to us.
“An example of the study is the role of urban parks. They can help regulate city air temperatures and reduce the likelihood of local flooding, as well as creating spaces for people to relax, play and encounter wildlife.
“The end result will be a series of maps illustrating how these services are distributed across the landscape and highlighting sites or areas which should be of conservation concern.
“These maps will be easy to interpret, providing us with useful visual aids for increasing public awareness of the wider value of nature.
“They will also be detailed enough to inform local planning and policy decisions, such as highlighting the importance of local wildlife sites or areas of green belt.
Once completed the intention is to help other trusts start similar schemes across the country.
Trust director Jim Cokill said: “Sometimes it can be easy to forget the importance of wildlife to people’s lives.
“Seeing birds in flight or otters on rivers or badgers at dusk are some of the wonderful experiences in life and this project will underline that point.
“The information we gather will also give us extra information to help us act as an advocate for wildlife when large development proposals are planned.”