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the GiGLer

The newsletter of Greenspace Information of Greater London CIC

Weaving the data rainbow

Previous editions of the GiGLer have focused on the work of our partners and the systems we have developed to ensure the data we hold are as reliable and accurate as possible. This time, we show you some of the ways that data can provide a bespoke evidence base to inform your work; whether you engage people in accessible local open spaces, or identify the appropriate location for habitat recreation.

We have welcomed the arrival of some significant datasets over the last few months.The number of species records has increased by over 127,000, some 13% of our total records, during the summer months alone (see news).A project run in partnership with the Greater London Authority has improved our baseline of open space-related data and enabled us to create a draft dataset of London’s “public open space hierarchy”, as Tim Hogg tells readers.We have also worked with the CapitalWoodlands Project on a one-off contract to identify areas in London that would benefit most from the Mayor’s street tree planting program; collating existing street tree data from Transport for London and tree officers in each borough, to create a database of over 200,000 street tree records. And that’s just phase 1 of the project.

Our partners’ merged data can be represented visually in a variety of ways, including as single species distribution maps, accurate location maps of protected species in each borough, or generalised maps of species locations displayed as 10km squares to give an overview of their distribution throughout the region.

We can create a range of maps, from those that present London’s Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation, to those that identify sites across London that have been surveyed during the Greater London Authority’s open space and habitat survey, or those that show all publicly accessible open spaces. Representing data visually in this way helps engage people through connecting information to geographic locations, presenting large quantities of information from different sources in an immediate and easy to understand form.

But, GiGL isn’t solely about dots on maps. It is what we do with those data that counts – the so-called “third generation” data products that allow us to model diverse ecological and open space situations. Third generation data results from the analysis or interpretation of ‘second generation’ data which is itself a compilation of ‘first generation’ documented field observations.

This is already making a real contribution to biodiversity in the Thames Valley – and changing the way people work. Philippa Burrell, Director of Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre, explains how this is already working in her region. Nick White of the London Biodiversity Partnership explains what a difference it could make to London and we take a brief look at how this approach has already helped with a high profile London project – the Mayor’s street tree programme.

The increasingly sophisticated ways in which we can interrogate data allow us to answer ever-more complex questions and so inform conservation and budgetary priorities. Recent projects have included aiding Butterfly Conservation’s survey work by identifying where in the vice counties of Herts and Middlesex elm trees are present; and updating Natural England’s lowland grassland inventory by pinpointing sites where indicator species and relevant habitats have been recorded.

As data providers become more aware of the possible uses for their data beyond their own needs, they are also becoming more aware of the value of ‘future-proofing’; gathering information that exceeds their immediate needs with other end users in mind. While surveyors are in the field, they may as well tick a few extra boxes for a small additional outlay of time. The possibilities of what GiGL can achieve are increasing and will continue to do so as long as new data sources are made available.

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