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Frequently asked questions

  • Why is landscape linked to biodiversity in this study?
    Although landscape character is something that has been studied for some time, its relationship with biodiversity has never been considered in detail. Individual habitats and species were treated in isolation and their relationship with the wider countryside was largely ignored. However, these days everyone is keen to develop a much more holistic view of the countryside and this study was designed to understand the relationship between the wider countryside and the habitats and species it supports.

  • How can I find out how landscape character and biodiversity were assessed in this study?
    Take a look at the methodology statement (pdf format, 6.4Mb).

  • How will the results of the study be used?
    We hope that the results of the study will be of interest to a wide range of different user groups and individuals. Planners, for example, may use them to get a better understanding of the landscape character and biodiversity of an area, to make sure that any new development can contribute towards the conservation and enhancement of this resource.

    At a parish level, local communities may be interested in how the landscapes and wildlife habitats in their area fit into a district, county and national context. This information could help them explore what they can do to help safeguard, maintain and expand this resource locally through a range of locally based plans and projects.

  • Why has my area got such a low bioscore on the biomap?
    The bioscores are simply a basic measure of the number and type of wildlife habitats within a given area. For a variety of reasons, some parts of the county have changed enormously over the past 40-50 years and, unfortunately, this has resulted in a serious decline in many different types of habitat.

    Areas with low bioscores generally have a narrower range of habitats, and most of these may only be recognised as being of local importance. By contrast, the areas with higher bioscores tend to support a wider range of habitats - including those which are deemed to be of national/international importance.

  • Doesn’t this increase the development pressure on areas with low bioscores?
    Not at all. The biomap can only provide a broad overview of the variation in biodiversity (habitat ) interest across the county. There is a lot more variation at the local level which isn’t covered by the study, and more detailed landscape and biodiversity surveys will be required before any planning decisions can be made about locating development.

  • Isn’t this going to be used as just another planning constraint?
    The results of the study are not intended to be used in this way. The countryside in Oxfordshire will continue to change as it has always done in the past.

    OWLS is intended to help to guide development, or any other change, in a way which helps to safeguard, maintain and enhance the landscape and biodiversity resource of the county. It will do this by providing easily accessible information about the special importance of different landscapes and habitats throughout the county.

  • Why are the bioscores just based on habitats, without including species?
    In the time available the study was only able to focus on habitats. A lot more work would be required to build species information into the scoring system. However, species will not be ignored because the new Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre will be able to add a lot of species information to the OWLS database to help inform any strategic guidance that is offered.

  • How will the study be updated?
    Updating the system on a regular basis has serious resource implications. At the very least, the new environmental records centre will be able to monitor and update the status of the most important habitats and species in the county, and this information will be incorporated into the OWLS database.

  • How can I find out more about the wildlife habitats in my parish?
    For various reasons there has to be an element of confidentiality about giving out information about wildlife habitats and species. However, if your wildlife site is designated as a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) then it is possible to find out more from English Nature’s Nature on the Map website.

    For other wildlife sites it may be possible to find out a bit more by contacting the Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre ( and quoting the site code next to the habitat description on the parish map.

  • Can I visit the wildlife habitats in my area?
    Many of the wildlife habitats are on land which is privately owned and has no public access. However, Oxfordshire has an extensive public right of way network which anyone can explore through using Ordnance Survey maps. Oxfordshire County Council is responsible for maintaining and promoting this network.

    In addition, there are many nature reserves and sites in the county where public access is welcomed: