How to Rewild

18 Basic Habitats


18 Basic Habitats
Key Principle


As a landowner, however big your patch, an important starting point is to understand what you have in front of you. What habitats are there already, and which ones are of high value? What can you do to protect and restore each one?

Most habitats in Britain are covered by the 18 main categories shown below. And each category is divided into sub habitats, with much more detail on the pages linked below.

If you’re confused by the habitat descriptions, you can commission a UKHab survey of your land, or even do one yourself – the system can rapidly become intuitive if you have a working knowledge of British plants. Training courses are available directly from UKHab, and a survey app is available from eCountability.

The 18 Habitat system is adapted from the v2 habitat classification system created by UKHab – a not-for-profit standard which is now being adopted by many UK ecologists. You can find out more details about the system on their website.

Built-up Areas & Gardens

  • Gardens
  • Buildings
  • Roads, tracks, railways
  • Car parks, brownfield sites, green roofs

Arable & Horticulture

  • Arable fields
  • Field margins
  • Commercial horticulture, allotments
  • Intensive orchards, Christmas tree farms

Modified Grassland

  • Recently-fertilised grassland, e.g, lawns, sports pitches, pasture
  • Grassland with high nutrient levels due to artificial processes

Acid Grassland

  • Unfertilised grassland with soil pH below 5.5
  • e.g. heathland, moorland, bog margins, some cliff tops
  • Bracken

Neutral Grassland

  • Unfertilised grassland with soil pH of 5.5 – 6.5
  • e.g. hay meadows on alluvial soils or loam

Calcareous Grassland

  • Unfertilised grassland with soil pH over 6.5
  • e.g. thin soils on limestone and chalk hilltops and cliffs


  • Native hedgerows
  • Non-native hedgerows

Dense Scrub

  • Native scrub: Blackthorn, Hazel, Sea Buckthorn, Bramble, Gorse, Hawthorn, Willow, Juniper
  • Non-native scrub: Rhododendron
  • Mixed scrub

Dwarf Shrub Heath

  • Heathland
  • Willow scrub

Broadleaved & Mixed Woodland

  • All broadleaved woodland
  • Mixed woodland where more than 20% of the trees are broadleaved (and/or Yew)

Coniferous Woodland

  • Plantation coniferous woodland
  • Native Scots Pine woodland
  • Mixed woodland where less than 20% of trees are broadleaved

Rivers & Streams

  • Natural flowing watercourses

Standing Open Water & Canals

  • Natural lakes, reservoirs
  • Ponds, scrapes, seasonal pools, puddles
  • Canals, irrigation channels

Fen Marsh & Swamp

  • Seasonally-flooded, unfertilised meadows
  • Grassland dominated by rushes and/or Purple Moor Grass
  • Ditches with overgrown vegetation
  • Marginal vegetation at waterbody and watercourse edges
  • Reedbeds
  • Other swamps sitting below the water table


  • Upland blanket bog
  • Lowland raised bog

Dunes & Vegetated Shingle

  • Sand dunes
  • Shingle berms stabilised by vegetation

Inland Rock

  • Inland cliffs
  • Scree slopes
  • Limestone pavement (geological feature)
  • Quarries and mine workings
  • Grassland on heavy metal-contaminated sites

Shoreline Cliffs & Slopes

  • Cliffs influenced by salt spray from the sea
  • Slopes influenced by salt spray from the sea


Some habitats, like Wood Pasture and Traditional Orchards are additional codes, which do not fit into the 18 habitat system. For the full list of these, please register for UKHab’s additional reference materials (available free of charge), and refer to ‘essential secondary codes’.

Unlike the full UKHab classification system, our 18 habitat system does not include the ‘Marine inlets and transitional waters’ categories.

Most of these habitats occur beyond the shoreline, and are not likely to be present in a typical project. Those which are present require site-specific management plans, to estimate and account for the influence of nutrient, sediment and pollutant inputs.

Restoration of many of these habitats is difficult due to the constant, unpredictable action of the sea. Restoration of inflowing rivers and shoreline habitats is likely to be more cost-effective in most cases. However, some seabed interventions and saltmarsh management plans can be effective once nutrient, sediment and pollutant inputs are balanced.

For those interested in learning more, we have explored Coastal Saltmarsh management in our guide to keeping sheep. Further information is available in a consultation session.