UK Habitat Classifications
Classification is a prerequisite to structuring knowledge and
developing our understanding of the natural world.
A strong and consistent base of classification also provides an
important tool for nature conservation. It is vital to be able to
identify and record species, ecological communities and habitat
types of interest that are under threat so that they can be related
to a legal framework to ensure their protection.
Classification also provides a language through which data can
be communicated at a national and international level.
In the case of species, there is a long-established tradition of
taxonomy, which provides a single, more or less complete,
classification of higher organisms found in the UK. In contrast,
the requirement for the classification of habitats has only been
developed in detail in recent decades.
Several terrestrial and freshwater classifications have emerged as
important standards for conservation in the UK (see below) and the
JNCC plays an important role in maintaining these
Some have developed importance because they have been
officially adopted to implement key aspects of national or
international legislation. The central role of these
classifications in the practice of nature conservation has been
further increased by the fact that they are the main frameworks for
gathering and storing habitat data.
Mainstream classifications and correspondences between
Currently there are a number of popular terrestrial and
freshwater habitat/vegetation classifications in use. These include
These classification systems have been designed with somewhat
different objectives in mind and use a range of different
parameters for classification, which creates difficulties in
comparing them. Nevertheless, the correspondences that have been
ideintfied between them and certain other systems (e.g.
EU Habitats Directive Annex I habitat types) are presented in
an interactive spreadsheet, which can be downloaded via the
following link: NBN
dictionary habitat correspondances (see also the National Biodiversity Network