National Highways’ green mapping project to boost biodiversity on England’s motorways and A-roads

National Highways is set to use artificial intelligence and satellite mapping to help track changes in habitats and biodiversity.

Using the new state-of-the-art mapping tool will make it easier for National Highways to keep track of its Soft Estate ecosystems bordering the country’s 4,300 miles of motorways and major A-roads.  

Over the last 10 to 15 years, routine inspection of the Soft Estate has provided a basic level of information. However, this needs to be improved if the government-owned company is to identify, manage and prioritise maintenance of the soft estate more efficiently, ultimately boosting biodiversity.

The project, providing regular insight across the Soft Estate, will help the company halt the decline of biodiversity across its activities by 2025, and support informed maintenance and renewal activities for the next Road Period (2025-20230)

In Oct 2023, the project completed its Concept Stage which explored whether answering the question of biodiversity net gain was possible using remote sensing and spatial analytics.

Funded through the Designated Funds Innovation and Modernisation fund, the concept stage was conducted with the Connected Places and Satellite Applications Catapult.

Ben Hewlett, National Highways’ Senior Environmental Advisor, said: “We’re excited to be working in this innovative area to ensure we’re improving our asset knowledge of the Soft Estate, maximising its biodiversity, and bringing long-lasting benefits to people, nature and wildlife. This is a glowing example of how new technologies such as AI can help to improve biodiversity at scale.  

“This is an important building block of the work we’re undertaking to protect and enhance the ecology and the environment across the country, with an aim of achieving no net loss of biodiversity across all our work areas.


Related Stories


All the latest highways news direct to your inbox every week day

Subscribe now