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Britain's Habitats

Britain's Habitats: A Guide to the Wildlife Habitats of Britain and Ireland

Sophie Lake
Durwyn Liley
Robert Still
Andy Swash
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Britain's Habitats
    Book Description:

    A photographic guide to habitats, this lavishly illustrated book provides a comprehensive overview of the natural history and conservation landscape of Britain and Ireland. In essence a field guide, the book leads the reader through all the main habitat types, with information on their characteristics, extent, geographical variation, key species, cultural importance, origins and conservation. It aims to help visitors to the countryside recognize the habitats around them, understand how they have evolved and what makes them special, and imagine how they might change in the future.

    This book is the perfect companion for anyone travelling in Britain and Ireland, and essential reading for all wildlife enthusiasts, professional ecologists and landscape architects.

    Individual sections on all the main habitat types found in Britain and IrelandMore than 680 evocative colour photographs, including images from around Britain and Ireland in all seasonsDetails and photographs of key species and features associated with the different habitatsUp-to-date information-including maps-on the distribution, extent and importance of all habitat typesInformation on key nature conservation designations and different systems of habitat classification

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7319-7
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, British Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-2)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 3-4)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 5-6)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 7-24)

    Habitats are the places where plants and animals live. They are characterised by distinctive combinations of plant and animal communities and their physical environment. This makes it possible to identify individual types of habitat, which is useful in understanding where different species are likely to be found and what their needs are – crucial information for protecting wildlife. Habitats are also valued in their own right as the diverse products of interactions between plants and animals and their environment. For this reason, nature conservation legislation affords protection to habitat types as well as to species.

    It is fairly easy to...


      (pp. 26-67)

      The development of woodland after the last glaciation has mostly been inferred from tree pollen preserved in wetland peat. Montane species of birch and willow and Common Juniper were the first tree species to colonise the tundra-like landscape left behind by the retreating ice around 12,000 years ago. They spread from small pockets of woodland that persisted in the unglaciated (although still very cold) southern extremity of England and from the European mainland (of which Britain and Ireland were still a part), and were then followed by other birches and Aspen and then by Scots Pine. As the climate became...

    • SCRUB
      (pp. 68-79)

      Scrub can be hard to define precisely, as it is usually a changing successional phase found in a mosaic with other vegetation types. Typically, scrub is thought of as vegetation dominated by shrubs or bushes (i.e.woody plants with many stems) reaching no more than about five metres in height and forming a canopy over at least 50% of the habitat patch. It can range from scattered bushes on open habitats to dense, impenetrable patches. The term is also often used loosely to include young trees often associated with these shrubs.

      There has been much debate amongst ecologists as to...

      (pp. 80-99)

      Heathlands are semi-natural habitats that developed on relatively nutrient-poor and acidic soils as a result of forest clearance that in some cases may have started at least 5,000 years ago. Combined with subsequent use of the land for livestock grazing, the removal of trees contributed to a reduction in soil fertility and increase in acidity. This enabled heathland vegetation, which perhaps previously existed in clearings and under sparse canopies, to expand. Many current heathlands date from the Bronze Age, some 3,000 years ago, although in the uplands of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands transitions occurred much later. Heathland and woodland...

      (pp. 100-131)

      Almost all grasslands in Britain and Ireland are seminatural, a result of millennia of human activity that has favoured grassland over woodland and wetland, generally to provide animal fodder. However, this does not mean that grassland did not exist before the Neolithic period, when the clearance of woodland began. Pollen records suggest that tundra and tall-herb communities predominated over Britain and Ireland for a period at the end of the last glaciation. As woody species colonised, these communities were able to persist at high altitudes beyond the natural limit of tree growth, on exposed cliff slopes and shorelines, in dynamic...

      (pp. 132-147)

      Mountains are forced into being as the earth’s surface shifts, and in Britain and Ireland are ancient stumps of a range once as huge as the Himalaya. Sculpted by numerous ice ages and constantly eroded and weathered, they are now patchily covered with a thin layer of hardy vegetation and sparsely inhabited by some of our rarest wildlife. Mountains are generally defined as peaks that extend at least 600 m above their surroundings, although some lower peaks are montane in character. They can occur as single, isolated peaks (such as Suilven in Assynt), but are more often found as part...

      (pp. 148-159)

      Inland rocky habitats are generally widespread in the uplands where the bedrock has been exposed through glacial action and the erosion of weathered material. Limestone pavement is also found at sea level, and in north-west Scotland, montane communities are found on rocky exposures near sea level. Caves, quarries and disused mine workings are also found in the lowlands.

      The rock exposures of Britain and Ireland include rocks from almost all geological eras dating back early 3,000 million years. They can be divided into two main types, siliceous (acidic) and basic (alkaline), and this may be reflected in the plant communities...

      (pp. 160-187)

      Wetlands occur in a diversity of situations as a consequence of several different hydrological mechanisms, and most are peat-forming. Peat accumulates where conditions are too waterlogged for vegetation to decompose fully, which instead builds up into a layer of organic matter. This helps to retain moisture, raising the local water-table. Peat can reach several metres in depth, and in bogs isolates the vegetation from the more mineral-nutrient-rich groundwater. In contrast, fens still receive groundwater, for example in floodplains or open water transitions. Bog peat is of entirely vegetative origin, whereas fen peat tends to include a greater proportion of inorganic...

      (pp. 188-217)

      Freshwaters encompass a wide range of habitats from high mountain tarns to large sluggish rivers in the lowlands. Nowhere in Britain or Ireland is very far from the sea so very large rivers are absent, but the generally high level of precipitation means that rivers and streams form a key component of most landscapes. River water is derived from precipitation via surface run-off, springs or snow-melt, and usually collects in a drainage basin from which it flows downhill in a channel eroded by the river. In the uplands, fast-flowing rivers can erode ‘V’-shaped valleys. As the water flow slows in...

      (pp. 218-247)

      At around 31,000 km, the UK has one of the longest national coastlines in Europe, whilst that of Ireland extends to 6,000 km. Found along these coasts are some of our most important and unique habitats. The coastline is hugely variable and encompasses towering sea stacks; cliffs of black basalt, white chalk and red sandstone; shifting sand dunes; shingle ridges; saltmarshes and mudflats. Some of our oldest shores are composed of rocks that are three billion years old, while shingle and dune systems are dynamic habitats that can be seen to have changed with each visit. Natural features such as...

      (pp. 248-255)

      This section includes a handful of habitats that do not fit neatly into any one of the other habitat categories: Arable, Brownfield and Traditional Orchard.

      The common denominator is that they are all more heavily influenced by humans than other habitats, and are further along the spectrum between semi-natural and artificial. However, this does not mean that they are devoid of wildlife. The best examples can be wonderfully rich in species – for example, Brownfield can contain as many invertebrates as ancient woodland and Arable supports a unique suite of species, many of which are becoming increasingly rare. These habitats...

  6. Habitat Correspondence Tables
    (pp. 256-265)
  7. Species referred to in the text
    (pp. 266-272)
  8. Photographic Credits
    (pp. 273-274)
  9. Map Credits
    (pp. 274-274)
  10. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 275-275)
  11. Index
    (pp. 276-276)