Habitats already established on the farm are often the most wildlife-rich. Looking after the existing features on the farm and managing them well should be the priority when providing space for wildlife.
Maintaining habitats such as species-rich grasslands, woodlands and ponds can be critical to the survival of farm wildlife and is often more beneficial than creating new habitat. In general, created habitats rarely achieve the wildlife value of existing, long-established sites.
The ideal would be to complement existing wildlife-rich areas with new habitats on less productive land to benefit identified priority species.
The ecological network principles advocated in the report "Making Space for Nature" (also known as the Lawton review) provide a general spatial framework for conservation. The key principles for helping wildlife were defined as:
- Better - enhance the quality of existing habitats.
- Bigger - expand existing habitats where possible. In general, the larger the area of any particular habitat, the more species there are in it. For example, there would usually be more species of insects and birds in a 15ha woodland that there would be in five 3ha woods put together.
- More - introduce new areas of habitat nearby. Birds, insects and plants are more likely to colonise and utilise a new habitat which is nearby.
- Joined-up - connect pieces with corridors of similar habitat.
Choose a habitat for expert advice on how to achieve the most from it.