Potential contribution of soil diversity and abundance metrics to identifying high nature value farmland (HNV)

Deborah H. Maxwell, D. A. Robinson, A. Thomas, B. Jackson, L. Maskell, D. L. Jones, B. A. Emmett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Identifying and halting the decline of High Nature Value farmland (HNV) is seen as essential to the EU meeting its 2020 biodiversity targets. Data on HNV farmland is used to target policy instruments and monitor changes in HNV to assess policy impact and development. Initial estimates of HNV land were based on land cover data with limited spatial resolution. The EU has since taken a distributed approach, allowing countries to develop their own data and metrics to report on the presence of HNV land, and changes to it. Land cover type has been the main data used for reporting but no consistent set of data metrics have been agreed. Therefore, there is interest in both developing standardised reporting metrics and identifying land with high restoration potential to increase the area of HNV land. We explore the relationship between soil associations and broad habitats across a member state (Wales) to determine if any discernible patterns exist between soil and habitat diversity and if soils information might be useful for identifying areas with high restoration potential. We developed a set of criteria to identify soil abundance, combining soil diversity with ecological rare species approaches. The rare (< 1000 ha) and occasional (1000–10,000 ha) soils identified were associated with significantly higher levels of habitat diversity than the national average. We propose that soil diversity information could supplement habitat information in identifying areas of potential restoration interest. Two iconic areas of Wales, the Llŷn Peninsula and Conwy Valley, were compared for restoration potential. Soil diversity in both areas is higher than the national average; habitat diversity was average, or lower in the case of the Llŷn Peninsula. These areas with higher soil diversity offer greater potential for restoration to type-2 HNV. Soil diversity and habitat diversity were found to be positively correlated at a national level despite major management modification of habitats. Given this relationship it is proposed that soil diversity information offers useful metrics alongside land cover data for identifying or comparing areas with regard to potential restoration for HNV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-432
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


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