Priority Species & Habitats

The Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 Section 40 (S40) requires the Secretary of State to publish a list of habitats and species which are of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity in England. These were previously referred to as 'UK Biodiversity Action Plan' or 'BAP' species and habitats.

The History Behind the BAP Process

In June 1992, 159 governments at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro signed the Convention on Biological Diversity. It came into force on 29 December 1993 and was the first global treaty to provide a legal framework for biodiversity conservation. It called for the creation and implementation of national strategies and action plans to conserve and enhance biological diversity. In 1993, the UK government consulted with over three hundred organisations throughout the UK during a two-day seminar to debate the key issues raised by the Convention on Biological Diversity. From this was launched "Biodiversity: the UK Action Plan" in 1994. The report identified 59 broad activities for conservation work to take place over the next 20 years and a steering group was created to take the work forward. It established fundamental principles for future biodiversity conservation in the UK and led to the identification of national priority habitats and species in need of urgent conservation action.

The Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership

In order for the national priorities and targets to be met, it was considered essential that action be taken at local level.  The Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership was established in 1996 to bring together local authorities, statutory agencies and voluntary groups in pursuit of a shared vision - the conservation, enhancement and restoration of the county's biological diversity.  NBIS is a formal member of the Biodiversity Partnership and had a crucial role to play in the development and implementation of the Norfolk Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) – the county’s plan to maintain and enhance the biodiversity of Norfolk. The records and data provided by NBIS were not only important for the preparation of Species and Habitat Action Plans, but also, for the establishment of baselines, the assessment of trends, and the evaluation of progress.
The Norfolk Biodiversity Action Plan, produced by the Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership Steering Group, was officially launched in January 1999.  County-level plans were produced for a wide range of national priority species and habitats found in Norfolk.

Habitats and Species of Principal Importance in England

The S41 lists of Priority Species and Priority Habitats is used to guide decision-makers in implementing their duty under Section 40 of the NERC Act 2006, to have regard to the conservation of biodiversity in England when carrying out their normal functions. 56 habitats and 943 species of principal importance are included on the S41 list. These are all of the habitats and species in England that were identified as requiring action in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and continue to be regarded as conservation priorities in the UK post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

The research and knowledge in the Norfolk BAPs is still relevant as they cover the species and habitats of most concern to us in Norfolk.


Norfolk's Priority Habitats

Norfolk has over half the total UK number of Priority habitats: 24 terrestrial and freshwater habitats and 11 marine habitats. There are also a number of locally designated habitats, such as churchyards and cemeteries.  

  • Aquifer-fed naturally fluctuating waterbodies
  • Arable field margins
  • Coastal and floodplain grazing marsh
  • Coastal sand dunes
  • Coastal vegetated shingle
  • Eutrophic standing waters
  • Hedgerows
  • Lowland calcareous grassland
  • Lowland dry acid grassland
  • Lowland fens
  • Lowland heathland
  • Lowland meadows
  • Lowland mixed deciduous woodland
  • Maritime cliff and slopes
  • Mesotrophic lakes
  • Mosaic habitats on previously developed land
  • Oligotrophic and dystrophic lakes
  • Ponds
  • Purple moor-grass and rush pastures
  • Reedbeds
  • Rivers
  • Traditional orchards
  • Wet woodlands
  • Wood-pasture and parkland


  • Blue mussel beds
  • Coastal saltmarsh
  • Intertidal chalk
  • Intertidal mudflats
  • Mud habitats in deep water
  • Sabellaria spinulosa reefs
  • Saline lagoons
  • Seagrass beds
  • Sheltered muddy gravels
  • Subtidal chalk
  • Subtidal sands and gravels

NORFOLK LOCAL PRIORITY HABITATS (there are no national plans for these habitats)

  • Allotments and gardens
  • Churchyards and cemeteries


Species of Conservation Concern

Species which qualify for one or more of the following are species of conservation concern (SOCC):

  • threatened endemic and other globally threatened species
  • species where the UK has more that 25% of the world or appropriate biogeographical population
  • species where numbers or range have declined by more than 25% in the last 25 years
    in some instances where the species is found in fewer than 15 ten km squares in the UK
  • species listed in the EU Birds or Habitats Directives, the Bern, Bonn or CITES Conventions, or under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Wildlife Order (Northern Ireland) 1985


An agreed list of species of conservation concern are provided as part of a standard data enquiry; these are notable species records classified under the designations listed in the regional standard data service documentation.