The ecological impact of rural building on habitats in an agricultural landscape

Paul McKenzie, Alan Cooper, Thomas McCann, David Rogers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


The impact of rural building on the type, area and distribution pattern of habitats in a hedged grassland landscape is assessed from a field-mapped survey of a random sample of 25 ha grid squares (1998 and 2007). Buildings covered 4.0% of Northern Ireland in 1998 increasing by 30.4% to 5.2% in 2007. The number, area and edge density of building patches also increased. Building was predominantly on productive agricultural grassland. A relatively small area but wide range of other habitats was built over, in particular broadleaf seminatural woodland and species-rich grassland habitats, specified by the European Habitats Directive as important for their biodiversity. Building on habitats such as wetland, bog and heath, associated with biophysical land use constraints, was much less. Building followed a simple area-proportional model in which habitats with the greatest area were proportionately more built over. The impact of building next to existing buildings and at isolated sites followed a similar pattern. The current land use planning policy and practice does not adequately protect habitats. This paper highlights the importance of implementing a consistent rural development strategy across government sectors to facilitate habitat protection and the ecosystem services they provide.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262 - 268
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2011


  • Rural development
  • Spatial metrics
  • Field survey
  • GIS


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