Protective Measures for UK Upland Habitats

 

Conventions and legislation

A number of International Conventions, European Directives and pieces of National Legislation apply to UK upland habitats.  Amongst the most important are:

These have been instrumental in the design of the following biodiversity strategies, priority habitat lists, and site-based designations.

 

Biodiversity Strategies

The UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework sets out priorities for biodiversity conservation activities at a UK-level. Additional priorities are set out in the Country Biodiversity Strategies for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The main objectives of these strategies are to:

  • halt and reverse previous biodiversity loss through targeted actions
  • increase awareness, understanding, enjoyment and engagement with biodiversity conservation
  • restore and enhance biodiversity through better planning, design and practice
  • ensure biodiversity is taken into account in wider decision-making
  • ensure knowledge on biodiversity is available to policy makers and practitioners

These high-level strategies largely succeeded the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP), which operated from 1992-2012.

 

Priority habitats

Statutory lists of habitats of priority or principal importance for biodiversity conservation exist for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  These are largely based on the UK BAP priority habitats list. This includes seven upland priority habitats:

  • Blanket bog
  • Inland rock, outcrop and scree habitats
  • Limestone pavements
  • Mountain heaths and willow scrub
  • Upland calcareous grassland
  • Upland flushes, fens and swamps
  • Upland heathland

 

Site-based designations

 

Special Areas of Conservation

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are strictly protected sites designated under the EU Habitats Directive. They contribute to the Natura 2000 Network, which consists of a series of high-quality nature reserves spread across the European Union. A total of about 603 SACs, covering an area of around 718,400 ha, have been designated to represent the 21 UK upland habitat types listed under Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive. Information on individual UK SACs can be found in the UK SAC information spreadsheet. These were selected according to various SAC selection criteria and principles.

 

Sites/Areas of Special Scientific Interest

SSSI/ASSIs are the fundamental statutory mechanism for protecting sites of ecological and geological interest in the UK. Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) apply in England, Scotland and Wales, whilst Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs) apply in Northern Ireland. Legal responsibility for notifying and protecting such sites lies with the relevant statutory nature conservation agency in each country. The SSSI/ASSI series is intended to form a representative network covering the full range of wild flora and fauna, and especially those types and individual sites that are of greatest value to nature conservation. Detailed Guidelines for the selection of biological SSSIs for upland habitats are covered under the chapters for Bogs, Fens, and Limestone Pavements.

 

The tables below shows the extent of upland habitats in SSSIs in England and Wales only. Comparable data was not available for Northern Ireland or Scotland.

 

A. Sites in England

 

Area of habitat
within SSSIs
(ha)

Total area of habitat
(ha)

% of habitat within SSSIs

Limestone pavement

2,481

2,928

85%

Mountain heath and willow scrub

5,151

6,216

83%

Upland heathland

159,959

236,924

68%

Upland calcareous grassland

6,958

10,353

67%

Blanket bog

187,240

280,289

67%

Upland fens flushes and swamps

6,510

10,716

61%

(created from data in Biodiversity 2020 England Indicators December 2014 Report; no data for data for Inland rock outcrop and scree habitats)

 

B. Sites in Wales

 

Area of habitat
within SSSIs
(ha)

Total area of
habitat
(ha)

% of habitat within SSSIs

Mountain heaths and willow scrub

120

120

100%

Limestone pavement

42

43

98%

Blanket bog

32,926

56,200

59%

Upland heathland

35,900

79,000

45%

Upland calcareous grassland

280

650

43%

Upland flushes, fens and swamps

4,333

unknown

unknown

Inland rock outcrop and scree habitat

unknown

8300

unknown

[created from: (i) SSSI area data from CCW Features Database April 2010; and (ii) total habitat area data from Blackstock, T.H. et al. (2010) Habitats of Wales: A Comprehensive Field Survey 1979-1997 (University of Wales Press); (iii) expert estimation]