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Historical Aerial Photography used for ecological management

The Countryside Services Department of Hampshire County Council are using CR Historic aerial photography, published by GeoInformation Historic, to monitor, assess and manage areas of special interest within the county. Hampshire County Council acquired historical aerial photography for an area of woodland just outside Winchester. The black and white imagery, known as an ‘area collector’, was flown by the Luftwaffe in 1943 at a scale of 1:30,000. GeoInformation Historics experts, through knowledge of and access to both national and international archives, were able to source original prints from which the digital, ortho rectified dataset was created. The dataset was supplied to Hampshire County Council with the free, easy to use desktop software – CR Image Manager.

The imagery was originally purchased to interpret historical forest cover, however since the imagery has been in place within the department the Countryside team have also used the photography in a number of different ways. Phil Allen, Countryside Manager outlined some of the ways in which the imagery has already provided benefit. “Ecological systems require stability. Historical imagery enables us to determine the size and extent of an area as it was over 60 years ago, and therefore allows a gentle reversion from what is essentially a modern aberration, back to the traditional management extent that existed for often hundreds of years prior to the major changes heralded by the Second World War. It also provides us with evidence when faced with public opposition to positive ecological management. Specifically the imagery provided us with valuable information, supporting a plan to remove trees and scrub to reconstitute downland habitat and protect archaeological features. Historical imagery proved that the landscape was traditionally open grazing, and that the trees were much younger than claimed.”

The use of the historic imagery by Hampshire County Council follows the recent announcement by The GeoInformation Group (the parent company of GeoInformation Historic) of the first ever historic image database covering England.