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C3a. Status of UK habitats of European importance

Type: State Indicator

No new data since the previous publication.

Introduction

Member States of the European Union are required to report every 6 years on the conservation status of habitats and species of community interest (listed in the Annexes of the EU Habitats Directive). These are habitats and species for which the UK has European level conservation responsibilities.

The assessments need to conclude whether each habitat of European importance occurring in the UK is in a: ‘Favourable’, ‘Unfavourable-Inadequate’, ‘Unfavourable-Bad’ or ‘Unknown’ conservation status. These categories are combined in the indicator as explained below. This indicator is based on an evaluation of whether the results of the most recent assessment (2019) are better or worse than those for the previous assessments (2007 and 2013).

Key results

This indicator was last updated in 2019 with new data from the 2019 UK Habitats Directive Article 17 report to the European Union.

In 2007, 5% of UK habitats listed in Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive were in favourable conservation status, this figure decreased to 3% in 2013 before increasing again to 8% in 2019 (Figure C3ai).

The conservation status of 48% of the habitats was unfavourable-improving in 2007, it decreased to 31% in 2013 and 20% in 2019. 

The conservation status of 30% of the habitats was unfavourable-declining in 2007, this decreased to 25% in 2013 and 23% in 2019.

The proportion of the habitats assessed as unfavourable-stable increased from 10% in 2007, to 38% in 2013, and 48% in 2019.

Figure C3ai. Conservation status of UK habitats of European importance, 2007, 2013 and 2019.

A bar chart showing percentage of UK habitats of European importance in favourable, unfavourable-improving, unfavourable-stable, unfavourable-declining and unknown conservation status in 2007, 2013 and 2019.

Notes:

  1. The chart is based on 77 habitats listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive.
  2. Trends in ‘unfavourable’ conservation status allow identification of whether progress is being made, as it will take many years for some habitats and species to reach ‘favourable’ conservation status.

Source: UK Habitats Directive (Article 17) reports to the EU, 2007, 2013 and 2019.

Assessment of change in status of UK habitats of European importance

  Long term Short term Latest year
Percentage of UK habitats of European importance in favourable or improving conservation status

Deteriorating
2007­–2019

Deteriorating
2013–2019

Not assessed

Note: The long- and short-term assessments are based on a 3% rule of thumb. See Assessing Indicators. No latest-year change is provided because Article 17 reports are only submitted once every 6 years and therefore, any latest-year change would simply mirror the short-term assessment.

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Indicator description

Member States of the European Union are required to report every 6 years on the conservation status of habitats and species listed on the annexes of the Habitats Directive. Details of exactly what information is to be delivered is laid out in the report format and guidance notes. Each assessment needs to conclude whether the habitat is in one of the following states: favourable; unfavourable-inadequate; unfavourable-bad; or unknown.

However, it is likely to take time before habitats move from unfavourable conservation status to favourable conservation status, so for the unfavourable assessments, an assessment of trend is made to determine if the habitat is improving, declining, or stable. The information sources on which the assessments are based vary between habitats – their quality is documented in the database which underpins the assessments. The changes are largely based on evidence, though expert opinion was used in a few cases where evidence was not available.

The indicator is based on an evaluation of whether the results obtained in 2019 are better or worse than those obtained in 2013 (short term) and 2007 (long term). At its simplest (Figure C3ai), this can be the proportion of habitats which are favourable or show an improving trend (i.e. favourable, or unfavourable-inadequate but improving, or unfavourable-bad but improving). This applies to 27%(n1) of all habitats assessed in 2019, 34%(n1) of those assessed in 2013 and 53%(n1) of those assessed in 2007; the measure is therefore assessed as declining in both the long and short term.

Figure C3ai combines the unfavourable inadequate and unfavourable-bad assessments which show a similar direction of trend. In all reporting years, improving and declining trends were assigned where the evidence allowed a conclusion that improvements or declines in the conservation status of habitats were occurring. Thus:

  • Unfavourable-inadequate improving, and unfavourable-bad improving were summed to form the category ‘unfavourable improving’; and
  • Unfavourable-inadequate declining, and unfavourable-bad declining were summed to form the category ‘unfavourable declining’.

In 2007, no trend was assigned to those habitats which were neither improving nor declining. This included both habitats for which the trend was unknown, and those for which there was no evidence of change. In subsequent years, careful consideration of evidence allowed the use of the term ‘stable’. For ease of comparison in the figures, unfavourable-inadequate, and unfavourable-bad assessments with no trend conclusion in 2007 were summed to form the category ‘unfavourable stable’; the same term was used for data in subsequent years, but with more confidence that the trend was neither improving nor declining. 

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Relevance

Article 17 of the EU Habitats Directive requires Member States to report every 6 years on progress made with maintaining and/or restoring favourable conservation status for habitat types and species of community interest. These are habitats and species for which the UK has European-level conservation responsibilities. 

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Background

The first assessment of conservation status of species and habitats listed on the annexes of the Directive was produced in 2007; a second assessment was produced in 2013; and a third assessment was made in 2019. Each individual habitat assessment requires information on 4 parameters, which are brought together using an evaluation matrix to form an overall assessment. These parameters are: range; area; structure and functions; and future prospects. The trend in the overall assessment is based upon an integration of the trend information for the individual parameters.

The UK reported on 77 habitats in the Atlantic biogeographic region in 2007, 2013 and 2019. Grouping the habitats by broad habitat types leads to the following breakdown:

Marine  8
Coastal 19
Heaths and scrub  8
Woodlands 10
Grasslands  9
Freshwater  8
Bogs, Mires and Fens   9
Rocky habitats  6

Figure C3aii provides a breakdown of Figure C3ai by showing the number of habitats in the unfavourable categories in the 2019 report which arise from the unfavourable-inadequate or unfavourable-bad assessment categories. The picture for habitats is somewhat worse than for species (see indicator C3b), in that proportionally more habitats are in unfavourable conservation status, and proportionally more habitats which are unfavourable are in unfavourable-bad status. 

Figure C3aii. Conservation status of UK habitats of European importance, 2019.

A stacked bar chart showing the numbers of UK habitats of European importance in favourable, unfavourable-improving, unfavourable-stable, unfavourable-declining and unknown conservation status in 2019. The unfavourable categories are also distinguished as inadequate and bad.

Notes:

  1. Graph based on 77 habitats listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive.
  2. Trends in unfavourable conservation status allow identification of whether progress is being made, as it will take many years for some habitats and species to reach favourable conservation status.
  3. The unfavourable categories (unfavourable improving, unfavourable stable, unfavourable declining) show the number of habitats within a trend which were unfavourable-bad and unfavourable-inadequate.

Source: UK Habitats Directive (Article 17) report to the EU, 2019.

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee and the Country Nature Conservation Bodies have carefully collated and considered a wide range of data, using a robust quality assurance protocol, to come to the conclusion for each habitat and species, and to ensure changes, including within category changes, have been consistently and accurately discriminated. These changes are ecologically important, as stabilising a decline in a habitat, for example, is an important conservation achievement. The information sources on which the assessments are based are quite varied – their quality is documented in the database which underpins the assessments. The changes are largely based on evidence, though expert opinion was used in cases where evidence was not available.

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Goals and Targets

Aichi Targets for which this is a primary indicator

Strategic Goal B. Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use

Aichi Target 5 icon

Target 5: By 2020, the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, is at least halved and where feasible brought close to zero, and degradation and fragmentation is significantly reduced.

Strategic Goal C. To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity

Aichi Target 11 icon

Target 11: By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.

Aichi Targets for which this is a relevant indicator

Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use

Aichi Target 8 iconTarget 8: By 2020, pollution, including from excess nutrients, has been brought to levels that are not detrimental to ecosystem function and biodiversity.

Strategic Goal C. To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity

Aichi Target 12 icon

Target 12: By 2020 the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained.

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Reference Title
UK Habitats Directive Report 2001 First report by the United Kingdom
UK Habitats Directive Report 2007 Summary of Conservation Status Assessments
UK Habitats Directive Report 2013 Summary of Conservation Status Assessments
UK Habitats Directive Report 2019 Article 17 Habitats Directive Report 2019
UK Habitats Directive Report 2019 Article 17 Habitats Directive Report 2019: Habitat Conservation Status Assessments
UK Habitats Directive Report 2019 Fourth Article 17 UK Habitats Directive Report (2019): Supporting Information (habitats & species) 2019
European guidance on making conservation status assessments Reference Portal for Article 17 of the Habitats Directive
European level assessments Online report on Article 17 of the Habitats Directive: conservation status of habitats & species of Community interest (2001–2006)
European level assessments EEA Technical report No 2/2015: Results from reporting under the nature directives 2007-2012

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Downloads

Download the Datasheet from JNCC's Resource Hub

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Last updated: December 2019

Latest data: 2019

 

This content is available on request as a pdf in non-accessible format. If you wish for a copy please go to the enquiries page.

 

(n1) Note that the combined figure for favourable and unfavourable-improving may be different from sum of the figures provided individually for these categories due to rounding to a whole number. 

Categories:

UK Biodiversity Indicators 2020

Published: .

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