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Priority Species/Habitats & Action Plans

Given the limited resources available for biodiversity conservation, it has been necessary to prioritise those species/habitats for which there is the most need for conservation action.

As far as species are concerned, the criteria for prioritisation are generally similar to those used in the preparation of Red Data Books (a number of these have been produced for Britain or the UK). These books identify rare, localised and declining species, including those that are endemic to the UK and/or of international importance. Targets are therefore being set for species that fall into one or more of the following categories (in order of priority):

  • Species endemic to the British Isles or UK.
  • Species threatened with global extinction.
  • Species for which the UK holds an internationally important proportion of the European population.
  • Species which are rapidly declining in numbers or range. Declines of more than 50% since 1960 in numbers or range, e.g. size of breeding population or number of occupied 10 km squares, could be used as yardsticks. The interpretation of this guideline might differ across taxa.
  • Species which are rare or localised, e.g. plants or insects restricted to fewer than fifteen 10 km squares, birds whose breeding populations number fewer than 300 pairs and birds with over half their population found in fewer than 10 sites.
  • Species which have become extinct in the UK since 1900.

The approach taken towards habitats is less clearly defined, although a similar approach to identifying habitats of international importance is used. As such targets are to be set for habitats that fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Habitats on which priority species depend.
  • Habitats for which the UK holds an important proportion of the total world or European resource.
  • Habitats rapidly declining in area.
  • Habitats declining in quality.
  • Habitats which are rare, i.e. of limited area.
  • Habitats which are listed on Annex 1 of the EU Habitats and Species Directive.

Action plans are to be produced for all priority species/habitats in order to focus activities by clearly setting out targets, and the actions (of all types) thought to be necessary to achieve these targets.

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