Skip to main content

Using Nature Braid

Your guide to obtaining and running NatureBraid, and working with the results.

Pōhutukawa tree

The Nature Braid is an evolving tool with new developments being added based on the needs of our users. It is also a framework composed of different packages and toolboxes. This page refers to the “main” Nature Braid toolbox which is a Python toolbox that works in ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro.

The toolbox requires either ESRI’s ArcMap 10.4.1 or above or ArcGIS Pro 2.xx or above to run. Help text is embedded within the NB software, along with information about suggested and default parameters. You can also download the latest version of the NB documentation.

The minimum data requirements to apply NB are:

  • Digital elevation model (DEM)
  • Land cover information
  • Soil information

The DEM is a gridded dataset representing topography that would ideally have a pixel size/spatial resolution of 5m by 5m or 10m by 10m. Although coarser resolution data can be used, this would increase the uncertainty in NB estimations as any fine-scale details in topography, land use, or soil may be lost.

A number of national land cover and soil datasets from the United Kingdom, Europe, and New Zealand are currently supported by NB out-of-the-box. For other countries, local datasets can be correlated with these datasets for use in NB, with caveats around whether these classification systems are compatible. For a more robust NB application, the model supports using local datasets directly using user-defined parameterisation tables. Support for a broader range of datasets will be added in the future.

Please also note NB has been best established in temperate regions with hilly topography, and has also been applied to tropical regions. Although we are beginning to bring in consideration of other geoclimatic regions, such as alpine or arid regions, it is likely to be a longer timeframe before we consider NB robust in such areas.

In addition to NZ and the UK, the team has explored applications in Australia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Vanuatu. Our colleagues have also done applications of the main toolbox in Europe, China, Kenya, and Greece. Due to limited resources we are unable to provide on-demand detailed support for other applications.

Aside from the main toolbox, other components of the NB framework are available for ESRI software and for QGIS 3.16 or above. These have been applied to India, Brazil, and Mexico to explore soil loss risks and vulnerable areas, species distribution and density, and urban green spaces.

For more information about previously accomplished NB research, where NB has been applied, how it has been used, and what datasets have been supported within NB, please see the research page.

For more detailed and technical information on using the actual toolbox, please view our documentation.

Running Nature Braid

An overview of a basic NB run is given below. Aside from the highly spatial and visual rasters and maps, NB also produces a wealth of tables containing statistics useful for further analysis. For example, the tradeoff maps have an underlying table actually telling the user which services would “win” and “lose” if a pixel was changed from the status quo.

Road next to swamp.

1. Start by running the Generate Baseline preprocessing tool which uses:

  • DEM
  • Land cover
  • Soil
  • Optional information (e.g. river networks, climate, modifications to other datasets, springs, etc)
Swamp and trees

2. Run ecosystem services models using the output from Step 1:

  • Agricultural productivity
  • Carbon
  • Erosion and sediment
  • Flood mitigation
  • Habitat provision
  • Water quality
Park outside shops

3. Run tradeoffs tool to identify:

  • Areas already providing services
  • Areas with opportunities to improve services

There is one preprocessing step in the Nature Braid before the ecosystem services models can be run: Generate Baseline. Using the information about topography and optional information such as climate and stream network, NB generates a hydrologically and topographically consistent DEM to correct for potential artefacts, allowing NB to more accurately simulate the flow of water through the landscape.

Afterwards, NB uses the land cover and soil datasets to produce files that feed into determining the spatial distribution, supply, and opportunities of the individual ecosystem services. The land cover information can be amended to explore potential scenarios where the land use or management have changed.

From there, the ecosystem services models can be run individually or in batch to produce raster datasets/maps and tables which are fundamental NB results. These output maps and tables can then be used for assessing trade-offs.

The image above shows a sample NB output map using the default colour scheme where the green areas are already providing good flood mitigation services, while the yellow and red areas are places for potential management interventions such as riparian planting.

Using the results

NB is particularly useful if you are interested in the cumulative impact of many small features (or changes to these features) in the landscape on a variety of ecosystem services. For example, if you are a land manager you can explore how riparian planting might change river water flow and quality, or where you might be able to plant trees to improve drainage on your land. If you are managing a catchment, you could investigate where and how you could retain water in the upper catchment to improve flood protection downstream.

Note that NB is a model which explores landscape capabilities. It doesn't tell the user exactly what should be done where. NB is more of a negotiation tool to see where in a landscape change might be useful. So while NB might indicate areas with good potential for, say, food production, it doesn't make judgements on which methods might be appropriate to reach the land manager's goals. Methods to realise the potential of land could include land use change, but might also include (for example) new management or engineering initiatives.