For many years attention was focused on conserving wildlife in sites. But some species are not well-served this way, and the pressures on wildlife and the desire to have it accessible to people mean that increasingly the wider environment needs to be seen and planned as a wildlife resource. Thus the development by the Wildlife Trusts of their 'Living Landscapes' programme, and by the RSPB of 'Futurescapes'.
The development of landscape character assessment, which is based on an analysis of geology, soils, topography, hydrology, cultural pattern - many of the same things that influence species distribution - has provided one means of speculating on the biodiversity potential of different areas of the countryside.
Hertfordshire has the benefit of having identified local landscape character areas. This work was used to help improve the mapping of the Key Biodiversity Areas that were coarsely indicated in the Hertfordshire Biodiversity Action Plan; the resultant areas now form the core of the Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust's 'Living Landscapes' programme.
Based on this work and some additional regional studies, in 2011 large scale corridors and networks for biodiversity were proposed for Hertfordshire as part of a study that looked at Green Infrastructure throughout not only Hertfordshire, but also parts of Essex and North London: The Strategic Highlights Green Infrastructure Plan for Hertfordshire and GreenArc (or SHiP - for short).
The County Council, with information on wildlife sites and protected species provided by Hertfordshire's Local Records Centre, and mirroring work going on within Europe, nationally and regionally, is exploring the potential of approaches like these to better plan for the county's wildlife and landscape. Some of the latest moves are to support the Nature Improvement Areas initiative (specifically The Lee Catchment bid being led by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority) and also work being undertaken by the Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust to refine the 'Living Landscapes' maps.
See these organisations for more information