Habitats in the UK

The River Nene near Peterborough - an example of lowland river habitat fringed by scrub and woodland © JNCC

The UK has a wealth of land and freshwater habitats, including dunes, fens, grassland, heathland, marsh, rivers and woodland. Together they are home to many thousands of species.


Habitat Management on the Web is a search engine designed to deliver information about how best to manage non-marine habitats in the UK for biodiversity and conservation. It is similar to a standard internet search, but it searches only web pages that have been pre-selected to take users to the most useful sources. It does not completely exclude irrelevant hits, but we hope it will guide the user to the best available management guidance. The search engine can only locate information that has been published online – papers and books are not covered.


Habitat protection, designation and advice

The UK’s habitats are subject to various protective measures. A number of international conventions, European Directives, and UK laws apply to them, including:




Each has been formulated into a number of policy measures and formal site designations. They include Sites/Areas of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs/ASSIs), which is the fundamental statutory mechanism for protecting sites of ecological interest in the UK. Detailed Guidelines for the selection of biological SSSIs are produced by JNCC.


Many UK habitats are listed on Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive. We provide advice and assistance to Government to help it to meet its obligations to conserve habitats under the Directive. In particular, JNCC has the role of co-ordinating the identification and submission of possible Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)  to the European Commission. We have also worked with the country nature conservation agencies to secure an agreed approach to reporting on the Conservation status of Annex I habitats and their component SACs. In 2007 we produced a UK report on the status of the Annex I habitats and we published an assessment of the most urgent actions needed to improve them.


Advice on habitat conservation issues is also required to support the implementation of the Water Framework Directive and the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) in the UK. Under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, we have assisted in the selection of BAP priority habitats and the design of Habitat Action Plans (HAPs).


Habitat survey, monitoring and classification

Langholm Moor, Dumfriesshire - an example of upland heath and blanket bog habitat © JNCC

JNCC supports habitat conservation through advice on survey methods and by maintaining common standards for habitat classifications. Information is provided through publications like the National Vegetation Classification (NVC) and through online resources such as interactive distribution maps for various NVC types. Rivers and lakes each have their own classification systems.


Providing advice on habitat surveillance and monitoring is an important element of our role, incorporating the use of traditional ground-survey methods and the development of newer Earth Observation techniques. We work closely with the country agencies on monitoring guidance for habitats, species and earth science interest features on protected sites through Common Standards Monitoring. We are also helping to develop surveillance and monitoring initiatives in the wider countryside with a view to promoting habitat and species conservation measures.