The Habitat Matrices

The primary habitat matrix provides a general framework for the classification and shows the level 2 and 3 types. In addition, more detailed matrices have been created for each of the broad habitats, showing the distribution of individual biotopes and sub-biotopes (levels 5 and 6) in relation to key habitat factors. The format of these matrices has changed significantly from previous versions of the classification to better depict the relationship of biotopes to habitat factors. For the rocky habitats, biotopes are shown in relation to energy levels, whereas for sediment habitats, biotopes are shown in relation to sediment type using a modified Folk triangle approach (Folk 1954).
The matrices aim to provide a rapid indication of the range of biotopes that could occur under particular habitat conditions, e.g. moderate energy infralittoral rock or intertidal sandflats. They can be used to indicate which closely related biotopes should be considered before determining to which type a sample record should be assigned.
Presentation of the biotopes and sub-biotopes within these matrices has a number of benefits:
  • It helps to display the relationship of a biotope to other closely related types and to clarify the main habitat parameters which contribute to its structure. These relationships are less clear in a more conventional listing of types (e.g. the hierarchical listing).
  • It enables the identification of dissimilar communities within apparently similar physical environments. Here, although there may be subtle physical factors which drive such differences in biological composition, other factors such as seasonal change, chance recruitment, grazing pressures or pollution effects may account for the differences and allow such communities to be linked within the classification.
  • It also facilitates the undertaking of new ecological survey in a more structured manner, by enabling the full range of habitats in an area to be identified and sampled.
The matrices for littoral rock, littoral sediment, infralittoral rock, circalittoral rock and sublittoral sediment (0-10 m depth, 10-30 m depth, 30-50 m depth, over 50 m depth) are available to view on this website, and can also be downloaded as images from the main download page.