Find out more about the UK’s habitats from wildflower meadows to ancient woodlands.
Mountains and moorland are the largest area of wild, natural habitat in Britain and play host to some of our most spectacular scenery. Wildlife habitats include heather moorland, bogs and windswept woodland. In the uplands you will find fast flowing streams with waterfalls, lakes and man-made reservoirs. Some moorland and bogs have been covered with blocks of conifer plantations or drained and reseeded with grass to create grazing areas for sheep. Sometimes this results in the loss of typical mountain and moorland wildlife. However other wildlife species have colonised these new upland habitats. Most of our upland habitats are found in Scotland, Wales and the Pennines though there are smaller areas of moorland in Cornwall, Devon and Yorkshire.
Crystal clear waters, with an abundance of the white-flowering river water crowfoot and fringed with lush bankside vegetation, chalk streams are globally rare habitats, the most iconic of which are to be found in England. But these fragile and beautiful places are under threat, with many chalk streams now far from pristine. An increasing population and growing demand for water is putting more and more pressure on these special places.
Find out more about chalk streams here
The UK’s freshwater wetlands and waterways range from small ponds and trickling streams to gushing rivers and massive reservoirs. From the River Severn to the Norfolk Broads, the Scottish lochs to the ponds of our back gardens, with such a variety of habitats, it’s no wonder that these areas support a diverse range of plants and animals.
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For many of us the sound of bees buzzing among the flowers, the sight of tadpoles emerging from jelly-like frogspawn and the smell of freshly cut grass are our first impressions of nature. And more often than not, it’s our very own back gardens that these memories come from: little havens for wildlife dotted through the deserts of urban sprawl and intensively managed farmland.
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Coastal habitats such as beaches form the foundation of major recreational and tourist economies, and can also play a crucial role in coastal defence. The frictional drag across intertidal areas effectively absorbs and dissipates wave energy, so reducing the risk of flooding and damage to both people and terrestrial habitats.
Find out more about coastal here
Humans have been farming in the UK for thousands of years, producing crops and raising livestock. During this time, wildlife has moved into the farmed landscape to make the most of the riches it offers, from flower-filled field margins to bushy hedgerows, reed-lined ponds to seed-filled stubbles.
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Before the influence of humans, grasslands filled with billowing grasses, colourful wild flowers and the hum of insects were only found in natural clearings in woodlands, above the treeline and at the coast. But once people began clearing woodlands for farming, grasslands flourished and were used for grazing livestock and hay production.
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Familiar as wide, open landscapes peppered with the yellow of gorse and purple of heathers, more than 80% of our lowland heaths have been destroyed since the 19th century. Even rarer than rainforest, heathland is one of our most threatened habitats.
Find out more about heathlands here
We all like to be beside the sea; the smell of salt spray, the gentle lapping of the waves on the shore, the soft sand between our toes … But take a dip beneath the surface of the UK’s seas and there’s so much more to see than first meets the eye. Seals weave in and out of sunlit kelp forests, cuttlefish flash all the colours of the rainbow, starfish graze along the muddy seabed and sharks zip through the open waters.
Find out more about marine here
Round, reddening apples, deep purple plums, sweet cherries, crunchy walnuts and juicy pears are just some of the fruits and nuts produced in our traditional orchards. Added to the UK Biodiversity Action Plan as recently as 2007, traditional orchards are being recognised as vital refuges for wildlife, as well as significant to the local character of our landscapes. They often contain a mosaic of habitats, including scrub, hedgerows and grasslands, as well as fruit trees of varying ages and an abundance of dead and decaying wood, all of which can support a wide range of plants and animals.
Find out more about traditional orchards here
Red and gold rustling leaves, weirdly shaped fungi, the smell of damp mosses… A walk through a wood on a bright autumnal day can bring joy to the heart. But the trees of our woodlands have a much deeper story to tell – one of fascinating creatures and ancient practices.
Find out more about woodlands here