Precious habitats such as woods, flower-rich grasslands, dunes,
estuaries, shores and seas play a vital part in human well-being.
Their soils are undisturbed and help to protect us from floods by
storing and filtering water and holding it back after heavy rains.
Habitats allow pollinating insects to thrive, which is essential to
so many crops while much of our healthiest food comes from the sea.
And the plants and animals which depend on habitats contribute to
the complexity of life on Earth and to our long-term evolutionary
and ecological survival.
How should conservation priorities be identified in the most
efficient, consistent and evidence-based way? The answer for
habitats is a robust, widely accepted and affordable method of
classification. It should be:
- Detailed enough to capture key differences and link them to
site management and history
- Comprehensive enough to evaluate and compare sites in different
places and as they change
Habitat classification is an international science, which allows
conservationists from different countries to work together. It is
based on data about the species that make up a habitat and/or its
structural or chemical properties. In Europe, habitat
classification usually follows the European Union’s Eunis
Habitat management for conservation
Some of the most important areas for biodiversity around the
world are not altered or managed by humans - they are sometimes
termed wilderness. Conservation of these areas usually relies on
maintaining and protecting their integrity and minimising
interference, although some need periodic disturbance (for example,
wildfires or high water).
However, in many land areas, including the UK and much of
western Europe, there are few or none of these untouched areas.
There vitally important biodiversity has adapted to semi-natural
habitats, such as wood-pasture, fens and heaths.
Semi-natural habitats usually need care from land managers to
keep their biodiversity interest, but they can be damaged by the
wrong sort of management. For example, limestone grassland needs to
be grazed at some times of the year, but can be damaged by
year-round grazing or use of fertilisers. Habitat Management on the
Web provides a searchable information source about how best to
manage habitats in the UK.