UKBAP logoUK BAP priority habitats


UK BAP priority habitats cover a wide range of semi-natural habitat types, and were those that were identified as being the most threatened and requiring conservation action under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP).  

As a result of devolution, and new country-level and international drivers and requirements, much of the work previously carried out by the UK BAP is now focussed at a country-level rather than a UK-level, and the UK BAP was succeeded by the 'UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework' in July 2012.  The UK list of priority habitats, however, remains an important reference source and has been used to help draw up statutory lists of priority habitats in England, ScotlandWales and Northern Ireland, as required under Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 (England), Section 7 of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, Section 2(4) of the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004, and Section 3(1) of the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.

The original list of UK BAP priority habitats was created between 1995 and 1999.  In 2007, however, a revised list was produced, following a 2-year review of UK BAP processes and priorities, which included a review of the priority species and habitats lists – see the Species and Habitats Review Report (PDF, 1.3Mb) for more information.  Following the review, the list of UK BAP priority habitats increased from 49 to 65.  All of the habitats from the original list were carried over to the 2007 list, although some names and categorisations were revised, and some new habitats were added.  Selection of UK habitats for the priority list followed consideration by expert working groups against a set of criteria, based on international obligations, risk, and the importance for key species.  Additional information is available in the annexes of the Species and Habitats Review Report (PDF, 1.3Mb).

The list of UK BAP priority habitats is available in a table, which also includes information about the broad habitat type that the priority habitat is associated with, links to descriptions of the habitats, and details of the changes and updates which were made as a result of the Species and Habitats Review.  The priority habitat descriptions are from 'UK Biodiversity Action Plan: Priority Habitat Descriptions' (PDF, 2.0Mb), which was published in 2008 (some descriptions were updated in July 2010 and December 2011).  The list of priority habitats is also available in the Priority Lists Spreadsheet, along with the priority species. 

Information on how priority habitats can be identified within a landscape using new Earth Observation techniques is explored in the Crick Framework


Habitat classification

In addition to identifying a suite of 'priority' habitats and species requiring action, it was also considered important to understand how these are set within the context of the whole of the UK.  A classification of broad habitat types was therefore developed. The priority habitats were all to be included within one (or sometimes more) broad habitat. 

The original classification of broad habitats was provided in 'Biodiversity: the UK Steering Group Report – meeting the Rio challenge' (PDF, 1.4Mb), published in 1995. This classification included 37 broad habitat types, which covered the whole land surface of the UK, and the surrounding sea to the edge of the continental shelf in the Atlantic Ocean. For each of these broad habitat types, a habitat statement was produced.  The classification was subsequently revised in 1997.

For further information about broad habitats>>>


Habitat Action Plans (HAPs)

For all habitats on the original priority habitats list, produced between 1995 and 1999, a Habitat Action Plan (HAP) was created. By 1999, 45 HAPs had been created.

In 1995, 116 SAPs and 14 HAPs were published in Tranche 1, 'Biodiversity: the UK Steering Group Report: Volume 2: Action Plans' (PDF, 1.2Mb). The remaining SAPs and HAPs were published in Tranche 2, which was divided into six volumes and published between 1998 and 1999:
Volume 1 (1998): Vertebrates and Vascular Plants (PDF, 964kb)
Volume 2 (1998): Terrestrial and Freshwater Habitats (PDF, 718kb)
Volume 3 (1998): Plants and Fungi (PDF, 1.2Mb)
Volume 4 (1998): Invertebrates (PDF, 1.4Mb)
Volume 5 (1999): Maritime Species and Habitats (PDF, 2.4Mb)
Volume 6 (1999): Terrestrial and Freshwater Species and Habitats (PDF, 535kb)

These HAPs were published over 10 years ago, and therefore do not necessarily give the most recent representation of the status of a habitat, or any proposed conservation needs.  For the habitats added to the priority habitats list in 2007, no UK action plans have been, or will be, produced, as conservation action is now primarily carried out at a country-level, rather than a UK-level, in response to the generation of country-level biodiversity strategies and aims.

The list and table of priority habitats can be used to establish if a habitat is 'new' (added in 2007), or 'original', and therefore whether a HAP exists.  Details of the Habitat Action Plans (HAPs) can be found on the original (archived) UK BAP website, or on the BARS 1 website, which was closed to editing in April 2012 following the launch of BARS 2.


Habitat management on the web

As support for habitat conservation, a search engine has been developed to help direct practitioners and interested parties to the most useful sources for biodiversity and conservation management information in the UK.  Habitat Management on the Web is similar to a standard internet search, but it only searches pre-selected web pages.