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Scotland's terrestrial and freshwater habitats

Scotland has a varied range of habitats that have been shaped by natural variation in the soils, land forms, surrounding seas, the vagaries of our climate and centuries of farming and other human use. The diverse mix of Atlantic, arctic, arctic-alpine and boreal elements are of world renown, with blanket bogs, oceanic oakwoods, and the flower-rich machair of the western isles being of European importance.

The habitat descriptions in these pages are based on classifications familiar to ecologists in the UK. They help with understanding the characteristics of Scotland's natural capital and priority habitats in Scotland. Our land and freshwaters are now being mapped to the pan-European standard, specified in the European Nature Information System (EUNIS), connecting with UK SeaMap external site , which is the EUNIS map of our surrounding seas. This fresh perspective on our habitats will fulfil a variety of needs and interests, towards the appreciation and safeguarding of our distinctive natural heritage.

EUNIS is a hierarchical classification, where the 12 categories at Level 1, such as woodland, are the most general. The terrestrial-freshwater classification has 4 levels, progressing in detail to our habitats of European importance, as listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive. SNH has published a guide to implementing EUNIS in Scotland, to inform future survey while enabling existing data to be utilised as fully as possible. As we progress towards standardising on the EUNIS classification, the habitats defined for UK Biodiversity Action Plan for the 2010 target provide insights into how EUNIS will look in Scotland. Please see the look-up table  PDF document which shows the links between BAP Priority Habitats and EUNIS Level 2 habitats.

Reedbed-D10455.jpg (gateway) Wetland and reedbeds at Port Allan on the River Tay near Errol - ©Lorne Gill/SNH. For information on reproduction rights contact the Scottish Natural Heritage Image Library on Tel. 01738 458541 or

Broad habitat definitions

Scotland's stunning landscapes contain a wide range of habitats. Find out about broad habitat types here.

Deeside-D2420.jpg (Farmland, birch woodland) (Gateway)  - Farmland, birch woodland and conifer plantations, Upper Deeside, Grampian Area. ©Lorne Gill/SNH For information on reproduction rights contact the Scottish Natural Heritage Image Library on Tel. 01738 458541 or

Priority habitat definitions

Detailed definitions and descriptions of Scotland's myriad habitats.

Last updated on Tuesday 8th September 2015 at 07:54 AM. Click here to comment on this page