EUNIS Classification

The European Nature Information System (EUNIS) habitat classification is a pan-European system, which was developed between 1996 and 2001 by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in collaboration with experts from throughout Europe. It covers all types of natural and artificial habitats, both aquatic and terrestrial.
JNCC has actively contributed to the development of the marine sections of the EUNIS classification, since development began in 1996, with both the structure and detail of the marine classification strongly influenced by JNCC-led work in this area. To support the work of the OSPAR Biodiversity Committee, JNCC led on several international workshops (Oban 1999, Southampton 2000) which were held jointly by OSPAR, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the European Environment Agency (EEA) to further develop the north-east Atlantic sections of the EUNIS classification. Following a literature review by OSPAR contracting parties, a revised habitat classification for the north-east Atlantic was agreed at the Biodiversity Committee in February 2004 and was incorporated into the 2004 version of  the EUNIS classification. The 2004 version of the National Marine Habitat Classification for Britain and Ireland together with the north-east Atlantic classification developed for the OSPAR Convention in 2004 were fully incorporated to produce the 2004 EUNIS classification. The current 2007 version was created with additional habitat types and revisions to the heirarchical structure, and is available here.
For more information on defining new biotopes and potential issues with using EUNIS, see this paper, which was initially created for the MESH (Mapping European Seabed Habitats) project.

EUNIS Updates


The marine component of the EUNIS habitats classification has not been revised since 2004 except for the addition of some Black Sea habitats and some minor changes to habitat descriptions. Since 2004 new data have become available, particularly through EU funded projects such as Balance, MESH and EUSeaMap, and experience of using the classification has increased. There have been growing demands for a revision, as outlined in outputs from the workshop “Using EUNIS Habitat Classification for Benthic Mapping in European Seas” held in San Sebastian in April 2012. Consequently, the European Environment Agency together with its European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity agreed to revisit the marine component of the EUNIS habitats classification as the first part of a wider review of the classification. The first stage of this process was a workshop held at the EEA in November 2013 which aimed to agree the general principles on which the revision was based. The meeting included invited experts chosen to include experience from the major seabed mapping projects and from all of Europe’s sea, together with staff from the European Commission, EEA and the ETC/BD. The following preliminary work plan was agreed:
Task Organisation
Revise proposal and share with workshop participants ETC/BD and David Connor (EC)
Finalise proposal based on meeting. Associated paper to explain rationale. ETC/BD
Revised proposal EEA formal consultation with EIONET, for information to other interested groups (e.g. MSFD, MEG, RSC, ICES)
Accomodate possible comments ETC/BD
Peer review of final proposal EUNIS marine expert group
Prepare web documentation / application EEA
Finalised proposal  
Work on revising EUNIS will continue throughout 2014/15.

Correlation with other classifications

A correlation table has been prepared by JNCC which allows users to translate between the EUNIS marine classification, the Marine Habitat Classification for Britain and Ireland, and other marine habitats listed as being important for conservation under various legislative instruments (e.g. Annex I habitats, OSPAR habitats).