The Habitat Dictionary Fact sheet
Habitat classification is not like species classification. There is no clearly agreed ‘taxonomy’ and many different systems have been developed, often independently of each other and for different purposes. Although botanists have been classifying vegetation for the past century, habitat classification, which builds on the system of European vegetation classification so as to include abiotic features of the habitat, is a relatively new development.
The need for a classification has several driving forces:
- establishment of habitat protection legislation
- inventory of habitats in a country, region, or site
- biodiversity monitoring and reporting
- or description of a species' habitat requirements
Habitat classification systems which are scientific, unambiguous and easy to use are therefore required. Habitat classifications may either be comprehensive, enabling description of all the land and sea area concerned, or selective, covering only those habitats relevant to a particular application. A fundamental requirement for collating and accessing habitat data in the NBN is a dictionary describing and enabling comparison between the many different systems of habitat classification used in the UK. This is necessary so that, for example, existing surveys can be used to provide information about priority habitats.
The NBN Habitats Dictionary brings those classifications in current use in the United Kingdom together as a single publicly accessible information resource, and allows a user to compare them and select a classification suitable for his or her purpose. However, reference should also be made to the website and/or publication source of the classification itself for more detailed information. This source information is contained in the metadata associated with each classification listed (see the link to “List Classifications” in the Habitats Dictionary website). Where detailed information on individual habitat types is available on another website, the appropriate link is provided on the habitat fact-sheet associated with each classification.
The NBN Habitat Dictionary is accessible directly from the NBN Website as a reference source. It is currently not implemented in the NBN Gateway, but the intention is to do so to enable habitat datasets from different sources to be utilised, but this requires further development of the Gateway.
Data included in the Habitats Dictionary
The NBN Habitats Dictionary includes information on 16 classifications in use in the UK. In some cases there have been updates to these classifications, and the Habitats Dictionary gives priority to the most recent update while still providing information about earlier versions.
Different levels of information about the classifications have been applied in the website listings:
M: metadata on the classification is available, including name, revision date, objectives, commissioning agency, creating organisation, published reference, website (if any).
F: indicates that the website provides fact-sheets on the habitat types in the classification, including the hierarchy, habitat descriptions and related habitat types in other classifications which also have ‘F’ status.
The main secondary sources of data are the ‘Biotopes Dictionary’ of Recorder 2002 and the European Nature Information System (EUNIS) habitat classification. Tables of relationships between classifications have been supplied by JNCC and the EUNIS project.
Which classification should I use?
Some advice is included in the Habitats Dictionary website as to how to choose between different classifications, including notes on their respective strengths and weaknesses. These are the opinions of the developer of the NBN Habitats Dictionary, and do not necessarily reflect the policy of the NBN Trust or any of its partners.
The different classifications are broadly grouped as:
- “Select” - a classification restricted to particular legislative purposes
- “Ecosystem” - a classification referring to a particular ecosystem
- “Comprehensive” - a classification covering all the land (and/or seabed) area
Visit the NBN Habitat Dictionary – opens in a new browser