Habitat Directives in UK


The Habitat Directives protects a variety of the UK’s animal species and plant including vulnerable and rare animals such as bats, otters and dormice and habitats from sand dunes to heathlands to rocky caves. The Habitat Directives was adopted in 1992 in UK and it is a fundamental piece of wildlife legislation .The European Union uses Habitats Directives as a main vehicle of endeavoring to safeguard its precious natural heritage. Habitats Directives in the UK is comparable to Environmental Impact Assessment screening process. If a probable effect cannot be ruled out, Competent Authorities undertakes an ideal assessment to establish adverse effects on site integrity. This essay critically reviews Habitats Directives application and evaluates its role as an effective policy instrumental for habitat conservation in the UK.


Application of Habitat Directives

The Habitat Directives is instrumental in biodiversity conservation in UK .In Habitats Directives the restoration and maintenance of populations of community interest wild species and natural habitats at a favourable conservation status (FCS) is identified as the entire conservation measures objectives. According to Squintani et al (2019) the concept serves as a useful and ideal measure of conservation success as practical issues linked with its application can be solved. The CFS issues stem primarily from challenges in habitat monitoring networks and organizing comprehensive species in UK, lack of data on habitat and species distribution historical dynamics, problems in identification of habitats, scaling problems and difficulties in study of habitat specific functions and structures.

The implementation of Birds and Habitat Directives in UK has triggered substantial unease in some parts within the industry. Particularly, ports have voiced concerns and argued that the interpretation of Habitats Directives by the UK government is more comprehensive like the gold plating. According to Gaston et al (2006) the over comprehensive interpretation of Directives by the UK government places it at a disadvantage compared to other European competitors. The presented evidence in this section fails to support contention of gold plating. The European court ruled against various member states for instance the UK as it failed to properly interpret the Directives. The UK government is required to provide compensatory measurers for development of two ports that were not consented based on the Bird Directive provisions Challenges by certain ports in the European courts were not yet upheld. A major reason for perceiving Habitat Directives as gold plating lies in the time taken by member states such as France and Germany to transpore Habitats Directives (Morris, 2011).This may have triggered the impression that the UK was more rigorous by giving a quick response. The UK Government, Non-Governmental Organizations and the UK Government conservative advisers have endeavored to seek for practical solutions to port development needs. In most instances, solutions can be found. However, as a result of more rigorous and complex assessment processes there has been a delay. Requirements to address weaknesses in transport network contributed to additional major delays to the biggest projects. These issues are frequently overlooked, though they are equally significant and would have occurred with or without Birds and Habitat Directives.

Habitat Directives strengthens UK Wildlife and Natural Habitats

The Habitat Directives strengthens the Bern Convention, the EU level of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats conservation. The Bern Convection aims at conservation of wild flora and fauna as well as conserving the habitats. The basic premises of Bern Convection are that the wild flora and fauna constitutes a natural heritage that is instrumental in maintaining biological balances. The Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) implemented the Convection in UK. The Council of Europe member states were the original signatories of the Convection in 1979 and have been primarily concerned with Western and Continental European habitats and species (England, 2019).The idea of extending the Convection in Northern Africa states has been an area of concern but with the political dynamics in Eastern Europe the emphasizes switched to Eastern European states inclusion. The extension of the Convection to North or Eastern developing nations necessitates financial assistance and in 1992 the Convections central secretariat was reported to be underfunded and understaffed. Working groups produces population reports on certain species and the Bern standing committee issues and recommendations. These may concern certain species such as particular habitats and wolf. To this end, the committee may recommend that a state designates special conservation area interests with its territory. However, the Convection implementation has been an individual contracting states responsibility and recommendations have been advisory nature and abroad. The introduction of the Habitat Directives should rapidly increase in UK at least due to the fact that Bern Convection provides habitats and species.

Preserve threatened migratory species

The Bonn Convention made in 1979 helps in Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals with an objective of preserving listed threatened migratory species via sustainable utilization. This covers various marine and terrestrial mammals, birds, fish and reptiles. The Bonn Convection offers immediate protection to any migratory species threatened with extinction and special attention is offered to all the species with unfavourable conservation status (Johnson et al, 2019) .Diverse agreements have been completed under Bonn Convection. Worth noting, the agreements differ in severity of their obligations and are open to the range states .For instance, Agreements in Africa and white storks in Europe and Houbara bustard in the Gulf are subject to consideration. In 1993 July the UK government ratified Conservation of small cetaceans in the Baltic agreement with North seas (ASCOBANS) perhaps 22 dolphin, whale and porpoises species pass through Britain waters or are residents. The UK hosts the secretariat for the aforementioned agreements at the sea mammal Research Unit at Cambridge 21.The recent agreement on the Conservation of Bats in Europe was sponsored recently by the UK and it is also under Bonn Convection.

Reduces wetland surface areas in UK

The Ramsar Convection on Wetlands of International Importance especially Waterfowl Habitat adopted in 1971 at Iran, is global in space. Ramsar Convection was promoted by development and drainage over the last 3 decades triggering a substantial reduction of Wetlands surface areas in Europe and beyond. Some spectacular losses of wetlands have been registered for instance, the Aral Sea, a fourth world largest lake has shrunk by half with 90% of water that was draining in to the sea diverting much to irrigate cotton plantations (Johnson et al,2019). Since 1930 about 94% of Greek Macedonia wetlands have been destroyed while since 1945 30% of Japan’s tidal flats have been destroyed .All states is permitted to join Ramsar Convection which has 80 signatories and is deemed successful due to its voluntary nature and relies on co-operation as opposed to threat of penalties or coercion.

However, signatories such as Greece and Japan have met less stringently requirements of Convection relative to other members. Contracting parties are required to own at least one national wetland site onto a list of Wetlands of International Importance, promote wise use of wetlands within the territories and establish wetland reserves which may not be on the list (Mountford, 2019).

According to Mountford (2019).wetlands are temporary or permanent areas of water, fen, marsh, peatland with water that is static, flowing, salt, fresh and brackish. There exists a data base and a monitoring procedure for Ramsar Convection and a Wetland Conservation Fund that was launched in 1990 seeking to assist third world countries to implement the Convection. On the contrary, this idea has been running extremely short of its funding target of $1m annually. There is likelihood for biodiversity convection to promote strengthening of Ramsar Convection thus receiving more funds through the GEF. In 1973, the UK signed the Convection and 76 Ramsar sites have been designated. By 1993 November UK had 69 more designated sites relative to other contracting parties. Additionally, during the same year a further 83 sites have been identified in the UK as suitable designation sites.

Provides an international framework for protecting species and habitats

The UK ratified the UN Biodiversity Convection. The convection was implemented after ratification by 30 signatories .In January 1994 the UK produced its nation Action plan as per the Convection requirements. Joint Nature Conservation Committee (2019) argues that Biodiversity Convection provides an international action framework that protects the species and habitats. Upon ratification announcement the UK prime minister declared the record to date in meeting its Rio commitments as a priority. The UK overall objective is to enhance and conserve biological diversity within UK and contribute to the global diversity conservation through all ideal mechanisms. The UK is determined to hammer biodiversity in Britain through changing its laws pertaining heathland, grasslands, ancient forest and fens.

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Protecting the Migrating birds

The UK Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) enacted the Bird Directive with an objective of wild birds’ conservation. The Bird Directive SPAS constitutes part of 2000 Natura network .The enactment of the Habitats Directive would reduce some of SPAS protection built up in Leybrucht case law. The Directive emanated from public concern over migratory birds annual hunting that was customary in northern Africa and Southern Europe. Additionally, the Habitats Directive also originated from a scientific research conducted by the commission results indicated that the number of European bird’s species was declining and some species population levels were found to rapidly decline. According to Joint Nature Conservation Committee (2019) many European birds are migratory therefore protection of wild birds is a transboundary issue entailing shared responsibility at European level. The Bird Directive is largely founded on British legislation that protects entire wild birds, allowing hunting of some birds while giving extra protection to others. Notably, Britain is basically recognized for the most far reaching bird protection in all the European countries before the Directive.

The Bird Directive provides for protection, conservation, control and management of naturally occurring wild birds as well as protecting their nests and eggs. According to Joint Nature Conservation Committee (2019) the general protection offered prohibits deliberate damage or destruction to eggs and nests, taking eggs in the wild , , killing or capturing, keeping birds belonging to the species which may not be captured or hunted and deliberately disturbing birds particularly during rearing and breeding period.

Substantially, the member states for instance the UK authorized to maintain preserve or re-establish a sufficient area of habitats and diversity to maintain bird’s population. Vulnerable bird species outlined in Annex 1 of the Directives are subjected to special conservation measures regarding their habitat and so far 175 species and subspecies are listed including most birds of the prey and many sea birds. The ideal sea territories and land for these birds are categorized special protection areas (SPAS).Comparably, moulting, breeding, staging and wintering areas are protected for regularly migrating species that are not listed in Annex 1.All the member states pay attention to wetlands. However, for SPAS it is mandatory for the member states to take ideal steps to avoid deterioration of the habitats, avoid pollution of the habitats and avoid any disturbances affecting the birds. Additionally, outside these protection areas the member states strive to avoid deterioration or pollution of habitats (Bowles,2019).Bowles further argues that the member states derogates from general protection in interests of pest control, public health and safety and diverse reasons. For instance, the UK permits the killing of 13 pest species, birds of prey for falconry and the taking into captivity of sick birds for nursing. The Directives, under national legislation permits hunting of certain species listed in Annex II. Species such as several common goose and duck and various game birds may be hunted throughout the union and the Annex II species may be hunted only in member states.


The Habitat Directive protects a large variety of UK’s animal and plant species. The Directive also protects rare and vulnerable animals for instance bats, otters and dormice and heathlands habitats, rocky caves and sand dunes. It puts systems in place to ensure areas the precious biodiversity are not subject to development damage. Habitat Directive play a vital role in securing ecosystem vital services thus benefiting human wellbeing that flow from such healthy natural areas preservation. However, not all human activities are excluded from Habitat Directives protected sites as the idea is to create areas where both nature and human can co-exist. Habitat Directives legislation therefore provides a series of activities and potential development in UK to ensure that the activities that do not adversely affect the species and sites continue while the activities triggering the damage are prevented.


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Johnson, D. E., Rees, S. E., Diz, D., Jones, P. J., Roberts, C., & Barrio Froján, C. (2019).

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Morris, R. K. (2011). The application of the Habitats Directive in the UK: compliance or gold plating?. Land Use Policy, 28(1), 361-369.

Morris, R. K. (2011). The application of the Habitats Directive in the UK: compliance or gold plating?. Land Use Policy, 28(1), 361-369.


EASTERN ENGLAND (UK). Систематические и флористические исследования Северной Евразии, 3, 160.

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