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You are here: Biodiversity Delivery Areas > The SW natural environment.

What makes the SW natural environment so special?

  • 978 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
  • 2 National Parks
  • 12 AONBs
  • England's only statutory Marine Nature Reserve around the Island of Lundy. 69 Special Areas of Conservation (SAC),including eight marine SACs
  • 15 Special Protection Areas
  • 20% of England's remaining ancient woodland, spread across the region

The South West is an exceptionally wildlife rich area, which is reflected in the number of designated sites across the region. It supports the largest amount of semi-natural habitat of any English region. There are 978 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) nationally important for their habitat and species interest. However, it is not just the diversity of habitats and species found in the SW that make it special but also the mosaic of inter-connected wildlife areas and landscapes across the region.

The national importance of the natural environment in the South West means that we have a particular responsibility to care for and extend our priority habitats and species, those identified in the national Biodiversity Action Plan. There are 42 priority BAP habitats and 838 BAP species identified in the South West. The following table highlights just how many of the priority habitats found in the SW form a significant proportion of the total national resource.

RankSW Priority BAP habitats % of national habitat found in SW
1 Maritime cliff and slope71%
2Lowland calcareous grassland 57%
3Saline lagoons 38%
4Coastal and floodplain grazing marsh 35%
5Lowland meadows 27%
6Coastal sand dunes 26%
7Purple moor grass and rush pasture 25%
8Native Woodland 24%
9Intertidal mud flats 22%
11lowland heathland 19%
12Wood Pasture and Parkland 15%
13Coastal vegetated shingle 14%
14Upland heath 12%
15Reedbeds 11%
16Blanket bog 9%
17Standing Open Water and Canals (Inc. Ponds, Mesotrophic Lakes and Eutrophic Standing Water, Oligotrophic and Dystrophic Lakes) 9%
18Lowland dry acid grassland 6%
19Lowland raised bog 4%
Note 1: For 23 (i.e. more than half of) SW priority habitats have either no up to date national inventory data for the habitat is held or it is incomplete.
Note 2: Marine data has not formed part of this analysis as relatively little data is available and it is currently subject to a parallel process. This information will be incorporated when available.
Note 3: This data is subject to change as habitat inventories are often incomplete. Please note that these figures are therefore for guidance only.