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UK 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 Report of the Species and Habitat Review 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. 

The list of UK BAP priority habitats is available in a table, 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 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


List of UK BAP Priority Habitats

The list of priority habitats is shown in the table below, along with links to the definitions of these habitats, which are from 'UK Biodiversity Action Plan: Priority Habitat Descriptions', published in 2008.  Note this document was updated in July 2010 and December 2011, with some amended definitions.

In addition to the priority habitat details, including links to definitions, and details of changes following the 2007 review, the priority habitats are grouped according to the UK BAP broad habitat type with which they are mainly associated.

UK BAP Broad Habitat UK BAP Priority Habitat Changes agreed in the 2007 review
Terrestrial and freshwater habitats    
Rivers and streams Rivers (updated 2011) New priority habitat [including existing Chalk Rivers priority habitat] (scope clarified in 2010)
Standing open waters and canals Oligotrophic and Dystrophic Lakes New priority habitat
  Ponds New priority habitat
  Mesotrophic Lakes No change
  Eutrophic Standing Waters No change
  Aquifer Fed Naturally Fluctuating Water Bodies No change
Arable and horticultural Arable Field Margins Revised name (previously 'Cereal Field Margins'); scope clarified
Boundary and Linear Features Hedgerows Revised name (previously 'Ancient and/or Species-Rich Hedgerows'); scope expanded
Broadleaved, Mixed and Yew Woodland Traditional Orchards New priority habitat
  Wood-Pasture and Parkland (updated December 2011) Revised name (previously 'Lowland Wood-Pasture and Parkland'); scope expanded
  Upland Oakwood No change
  Lowland Beech and Yew Woodland No change
  Upland Mixed Ashwoods No change
  Wet Woodland No change
  Lowland Mixed Deciduous Woodland Formally adopted as priority habitat
  Upland Birchwoods Formally adopted as priority habitat
Coniferous Woodland Native Pine Woodlands No change
Acid Grassland Lowland Dry Acid Grassland No change
Calcareous Grassland Lowland Calcareous Grassland No change; scope clarified
  Upland Calcareous Grassland No change
Neutral Grassland Lowland Meadows No change
  Upland Hay Meadows No change
Improved Grassland Coastal and Floodplain Grazing Marsh No change
Dwarf Shrub Heath Lowland Heathland No change; scope clarified
  Upland Heathland No change
 Fen, Marsh and Swamp Upland Flushes, Fens and Swamps New priority habitat
  Purple Moor Grass and Rush Pastures No change
  Lowland Fens Revised name (previously 'Fens')
  Reedbeds No change
Bogs Lowland Raised Bog No change
  Blanket Bog No change
Montane Habitats Mountain Heaths and Willow Scrub New priority habitat
Inland Rock Inland Rock Outcrop and Scree Habitats New priority habitat
  Calaminarian Grasslands New priority habitat
  Open Mosaic Habitats on Previously Developed Land (updated July 2010) New priority habitat (scope clarified in 2010)
  Limestone Pavements No change
Supralittoral Rock Maritime Cliff and Slopes No change
Supralittoral Sediment Coastal Vegetated Shingle No change
  Machair No change
  Coastal Sand Dunes No change
Marine Habitats    
Littoral Rock Intertidal Chalk Revised name (previously part of 'Littoral and Sublittoral Chalk')
  Intertidal Underboulder Communities New priority habitat
  Sabellaria alveolata reefs No change
Littoral Sediment Coastal Saltmarsh No change
  Intertidal Mudflats Revised name (previously 'Mudflats')
  Seagrass Beds No change (includes both intertidal and subtidal beds)
  Sheltered Muddy Gravels No change
  Peat and Clay Exposures with Piddocks New priority habitat
Sublittoral rock Subtidal Chalk Revised name (previously part of 'Littoral and Sublittoral Chalk')
  Tide-swept Channels Revised name (previously 'Tidal Rapids'); scope expanded
  Fragile Sponge and Anthozoan Communities on Subtidal Rocky Habitats New priority habitat
  Estuarine Rocky Habitats New priority habitat
  Seamount Communities New priority habitat
  Carbonate Mounds New priority habitat
  Cold-water Coral Reefs Revised name (previously 'Lophelia pertusa Reefs')
  Deep-sea Sponge Communities New priority habitat
  Sabellaria spinulosa Reefs No change
Sublittoral Sediment Subtidal Sands and Gravels Revised name (previously 'Sublittoral Sands and Gravels')
  Horse Mussel Beds Revised name (previously 'Modiolus modiolus Beds')
  Mud Habitats in Deep Water No change
  File Shell Beds New priority habitat
  Maerl Beds No change
  Serpulid Reefs No change
  Blue Mussel Beds on Sediment New priority habitat
  Saline Lagoons No change

Note that several habitats (e.g. 'Coastal and Floodplain Grazing Marsh' and 'Wood-Pasture and Parkland') actually occur in more than one Broad Habitat type, or are habitat complexes, but for simplicity they are listed against only one broad habitat in the table above.


UK BAP Broad Habitats

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', 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.  The details are described in Volume 2 (Terrestrial and Freshwater Habitats), and Volume 5 (Maritime Species and Habitats), of Tranche 2 of the UK Steering Group Report, published in 1998 and 1999.

JNCC published a guidance on the interpretation of broad habitats (Report No. 307) in 2000. This report contains the definitions for each of the terrestrial and freshwater types of the biodiversity Broad Habitat Classification. The definitions given are based upon the descriptions agreed by the UK Biodiversity Group and published in Volume 2 of the second tranche of action plans. In addition to the definitions, annex 1 of JNCC's report contains tables which show the correspondence between these broad habitat types and a number of other standard habitat classifications and select lists of habitats of conservation interest commonly used in the UK for collecting and reporting data. A spreadsheet to show the relationship between the standard habitat definitions most used in UK conservation was also developed with the National Biodiversity Network (NBN)


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 of 'Biodiversity: the UK Steering Group Report: Volume 2: Action Plans'.


The remaining SAPs and HAPs were published in Tranche 2, which was divided into six volumes and published between 1998 and 1999:

Copies of these volumes are available on JNCC's Resource Hub, along with Volume 1 of Biodiversity: The UK Steering Group Report – Meeting the Rio Challenge, published in 1995.

These HAPs were published over 20 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 table (above) of priority habitats can be used to establish if a habitat is 'new' (added in 2007), or 'original', and therefore whether a HAP exists.  



UK BAPTerrestrial habitat classification schemes

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