The Wild Watch project aims to carry out Nidderdale’s biggest ever, systematic survey for wildlife. We want to help people learn about and enjoy Nidderdale’s natural heritage by helping them to acquire the natural history skills they need to collect data on the threatened species of Nidderdale.

We cannot look after our wildlife if we do not know how they are doing, whether they are common or rare, where they live and what habitats they require to flourish. A major part of The Wild Watch project will be to survey key species to find out exactly where they live. Secondly, we will use ecological modelling, in the form of Habitat Suitability Models to identify priority areas where we could improve and even potentially create new habitat for some of our most important species in the future.

We are grateful for the support of our partners North and East Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre, Yorkshire Water, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Natural England and RSPB. We are pleased to be working closely with Professor John Altringham and our Youth Patron Zach Haynes. You can check out what Zach has been up to on his blog. The Wild Watch project is also lucky to be supported by Meopta Optics. Meopta have provided optic equipment to help with surveys.

Ecological modelling

Habitat Suitability Modelling is a technique used to provide a detailed assessment of the ecological value of habitats across large areas – like the whole of Nidderdale. The model uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to look for relationships between a species and the detailed environment around it.

Computer modelling of the habitat around tens or hundreds of locations, were a species has been found, is used to predict where else a species might then occur across the entire AONB. The map and underlying ecology also tell us a great deal about the habitat requirements of each species.

The maps really help us to make decisions about where efforts to conserve species should be targeted and where we can improve or create habitat to help our wildlife to flourish. This might be by enlarging existing areas or connecting small fragments of suitable habitat together. These models have been successfully used in conservation projects globally and by the University of Leeds for bats and wading birds across northern England (including Nidderdale).

You can read more details on our ecological modelling here