Biodiversity of Wales

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Map of Wales:
  Topography above 600 feet (180 m)

The biodiversity of Wales refers to the wide variety of ecosystems, living organisms, and the genetic makeups found in Wales.[1]

Wales is a predominantly mountainous peninsula located between England and the Irish Sea, covering 8,023 square miles. It has terrestrial habitats and many protected areas rich in biodiversity, including three national parks and five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The national parks include: Snowdonia, Pembrokeshire Coast and Brecon Beacons. AONB include: Anglesey, Clwydian Range, Gower Peninsula, Llŷn Peninsula and Wye Valley, which is partially in England.[2] Wales also has many locations categorised as Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Area of Conservation, Special Protection Area and Local nature reserve. There are many zoos and gardens, including the National Botanic Garden of Wales.[1]

On the coast, a great diversity of species such as seals, dolphins, sharks, jellyfish, crabs and lobsters can be found. There are also seabird colonies on the islands near the coast.[1] Species which can only be found in Wales are the Radnor lily, spotted rock-rose and a type of fish, the gwyniad, only found in Lake Bala.[1] The rare fen orchid (Liparis loeselii) is one of the most threatened species in northwestern Europe and has vanished from many places in Wales. The Welsh Government funds Natural Resources Wales (NRW), Plantlife, Bridgend County Borough Council and the Wales Biodiversity Partnership coastal ecosystem group to help reconstruct its natural habitat and secure the future of this threatened species.[3]

The Welsh government works closely with the Wales Biodiversity Partnership (WBP) which promotes and monitors the Wales biodiversity action plan. In 2010 the Welsh government launched a Natural Environment Framework, "A Living Wales", which focuses on sustainable land and marine management in Wales.[4] The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 put into place a range of powers and duties designed to enable the natural resources of Wales to be planned and management in a more sustainable, pro-active and joined-up way than was previously possible.


Floral biodiversity[edit]


The sessile oak (Quercus petraea), one of Wales' most common species, can be found across the region. English holly (Ilex aquifolium), one of the few native evergreen trees, can found in southern Wales. The wych elm (Ulmus glabra), a native species, suffers from disease and competition introduced by exotic species.[5]


The cuckoo flower (Cardamine pratensis), a herbaceous perennial, can be found throughout Wales. Bog rosemary (Andromeda polifolia), a small flowering shrub, can be found in central Wales. Within the British Isles, the Snowdon lily (Gagea serotina) is found only on the slopes of Snowdon.[6]


Important Plant Areas (IPAs) in Wales are areas of "the highest botanical importance" as determined by Plantlife.[7]

County / Histori\320c county Species Habitat
Anglesey / Sir Fon Spotted rock-rose (Tuberaria guttata) Dry, rocky places
Brecknockshire / Sir Frycheiniog Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis) Wet grassland and pond margins
Caernarvonshire / Sir Gaernarfon Snowdon lily (Gagea serotina) Mountain rocks
Cardiff / Caerdydd Wild leek (Allium ampeloprasum) Sandy and rocky places near the sea
Cardiganshire / Ceredigion Bog-rosemary (Andromeda polifolia) Mid-Wales
Carmarthenshire / Sir Gaerfyddin Whorled caraway (Carum verticillatum) Damp meadows
Denbighshire / Sir Ddinbych Limestone woundwort (Stachys alpina) Roadsides and hedges
Flintshire / Sir Fflint Bell heather (Erica cinerea) Heaths and moors
Glamorgan / Morgannwg Yellow whitlow-grass (Draba aizoides) Rocks and old walls
Merioneth / Merionnydd Welsh poppy (Meconopsis cambrica) Damp, shady rocks
Monmouthshire / Sir Fynwy Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) Woodland clearings, heaths and banks
Montgomeryshire / Sir Drefaldwyn Spiked speedwell (Veronica spicata) Limestone rocks
Pembrokeshire / Sir Benfro Thrift (Armeria maritima) Coastal cliffs or astride craggy islands
Radnorshire / Sir Faesyfed Radnor lily (Gagea bohemica) Limestone rocks

Faunal diversity[edit]

Red kite (Milvus milvus)


Around Cadigan Bay and Pembrokeshire coast, minke and pilot whales are common in the summer while fin and killer whales are rare. Bottlenose dolphins are common and Risso’s dolphin and Atlantic white-sided dolphin are rare. Whales, grey seals, basking sharks and sunfish can also be seen.[8]


Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and fallow deer (Dama dama) are the two largest mammal species in Wales. Roe deer are found in central and northern Wales. Fallow deer are found in rural and semiurban areas of Wales. The European polecat (Mustela putorius) can be found in both urban and country environments. Found in the same area is the red fox, one of the most common mammals in Wales.[9]

The red deer, one of five native deer species, is the biggest non-marine mammal in Wales. Fallow, muntjac roe and sika deer can also be found. Polecats and pine martens are very rarely seen. Other mammals include badgers, foxes, hares, hedgehogs, otters, rabbits, stoats, weasels, red squirrels, and 13 species of bat.[8]


About 420 species of birds have been found in Wales. Red kites and ospreys are a "signature species" of Wales. Dippers, choughs, puffins, guillemots, razorbills, short-eared owls, Manx shearwaters, whimbrel and plovers are also common.[8] Montagu's harrier (Circus pygargus), a rare species in Britain, has several nesting places in Wales. Red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scotica), once a common species, has reduced population dramatically due to human hunting. Red grouse can be found at the extreme north part of Wales. King eider (Somateria spectabilis) is also heavily hunted for its feathers.[9]


Adders, common lizards (try Oxwich bay) and grass snakes have been recorded.[8] Some sand lizards bred by Herpetological Conservation Trust volunteers and Chester and Jersey Zoos have been released into the wild.[10]

Priority Species[edit]

Species Species
Lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros) Greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum)
Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) Common dolphin (Delphinus delphis)
Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita) Grass snake (Natrix natrix)
Common lizard (Lacerta vivipara) Pine marten (Martes martes)
Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) Common toad (Bufo bufo)
Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)
Minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) Otter (Lutra lutra)
Marsh fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia) Twait shad (Alosa fallax)
Great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) Adder (Vipera berus)
Skylark (Alauda arvensis) Polecat (Mustela putorius)
Water vole (Arvicola terrestris) Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus)



Native species include ash, birch, oak, willow, holly, juniper, Scots pine and yew.[11] Planting and conservation of natives species is encouraged, because they tend to better survive the local environment. They also help balance the biodiversity and provide wood and timbers.[11]

Flowering plants[edit]

Ash, service tree, wild leeks, Tenby daffodil.[12]


Wales has over 300 species of mosses and liverworts.

The endangered species are: Bartramia stricta, Cryphaea lamyana, Ditrichum plumbicola, Hamatocaulis vernicosus, Pallavicinia lyellii, Petalophyllum ralfsii, Riccia huebeneriana and Sematophyllum demissum.[12]




There are five native reptiles in Wales. These include grass snakes, sand lizards, common lizards and slowworms.[12]


There are six native amphibians in Wales. They are the common toad, great crested newt, natterjack toad, palmate newt, smooth newt and common frog.[12]


An estimated 25,000 invertebrate species live in land and freshwater habitats in Wales.[12]

Human impact[edit]

Welsh biodiversity has been reduced by human activity. Many native species were lost because of lack of woodland support.[13]


Many conservation projects have been set up to preserve the red squirrel.[14] There is a great decline in the number of hedgehogs.[15] The use of pesticides has cause a major decline of honeybees; a Pollinator Action plan was launched at the Royal Welsh Show in July 2012.[16]


Wales has 175 species on the Section 74 list of Species of Principal Importance for the Conservation of Biological Diversity.[12] However, the list of species and habitats of principal importance in Wales is now based on new legislation in the form of sections 6 and 7 of the Environment (Wales) 2016 Act.[17][18] In Wales, the United Kingdom Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) was implemented by the Wales Biodiversity Partnership (WBP).[19] The Countryside Council for Wales also assists in sustainability management.[20]

Wales Biodiversity Partnership (WBP) organises the overall plan, and on a local scale, each council carries out its own surveys and reports back, then produces management and protection plants for the identified species and habitats.[21]

The Welsh government cooperates with European Community directives on the conservation of wild birds and natural habitats and wild flora and fauna as well as with NATURA 2000.[22]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d What is Biodiversity Wales Biodiversity Partnership, Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  2. ^ Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  3. ^ Biodiversity in Wales, Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  4. ^ The Natural Environment Framework A Living Wales
  5. ^ John White, "Trees: A Field Guide to the Trees of Britain and Northern Europe", 2005.
  6. ^ R. G. Ellis, "Flowering Plants of Wales", 1993.
  7. ^ Important Plant Areas (Wales) Plantlife, Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d Wildlife and bird watching in Wales, Wildlife Extra, Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  9. ^ a b Philip Whitfield, "The Simon & Schuster Encyclopedia of Animals: A Visual Who's Who of the World's Creatures", 1998.
  10. ^ Sixty more Sand lizards re-introduced to the sand dunes of north and west Wales Wildlife Extra, Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  11. ^ a b Planting Native Trees for Biodiversity, Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Species Archived 18 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine. CCW, Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  13. ^ Terrestrial Archived 16 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine. CCW, Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  14. ^ Conservation of red squirrels in Wales Archived 18 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine. CCW, Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  15. ^ Hedgehog BBC Wales, Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  16. ^ Royal Welsh Show: Honeybee action plan launched Farmers Weekly, Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  17. ^ "Biodiversity and resilience of ecosystems duty". The National Archives. Retrieved 19 February 2017. 
  18. ^ "Biodiversity lists and duty to take steps to maintain and enhance biodiversity". The National Archives. Retrieved 19 February 2017. 
  19. ^ Great Britain: Parliament: House of Commons: Environmental Audit Committee, Halting Biodiversity Loss: Thirteenth Report of Session 2007–08; Report, Together with Formal Minutes, Oral and Written Evidence, The Stationery Office, 2008. ISBN 0215524845, ISBN 9780215524843. p120.
  20. ^ Managing land, water and sea Archived 6 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine., Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  21. ^ Wales Biodiversity Strategy DEFRA, Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  22. ^ Habitats directive Welsh Government, Retrieved 25 September 2012.

Further reading[edit]

  • Wales Biodiversity Group, Future biodiversity action in Wales: advice to the National Assembly for Wales on the UK Millennium Biodiversity Report, Wales Biodiversity Group, 2002. ISBN 0750428872, ISBN 9780750428873.
  • David Hill, Matthew Fasham, Graham Tucker, Michael Shewry, Philip Shaw, Handbook of Biodiversity Methods: Survey, Evaluation and Monitoring, Cambridge University Press, 2005. ISBN 0521823684, ISBN 9780521823685.
  • National Museums & Galleries of Wales. Dept. of Biodiversity and Systematic Biology, Biodiversity Wales: Species of Conservation Or Special Interest to Wales, National Museums & Galleries of Wales, 2005. ISBN 0720005604, ISBN 9780720005608.
  • Great Britain: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, The UK Government Sustainable Development Strategy, The Stationery Office, 2005. ISBN 0101646720, ISBN 9780101646727.
  • Mark Everard, The Business of Biodiversity, WIT Press, 2009. ISBN 1845642082, ISBN 9781845642082.
  • Jon Moore, An Atlas of Marine Biodiversity Action Plan Species and Habitats in Wales: A Report for Countryside Council for Wales, Countryside Council for Wales, 2001.
  • Mike Alexander, Management Planning for Nature Conservation: A Theoretical Basis & Practical Guide, Springer, 2008. ISBN 1402065809, ISBN 9781402065804.
  • P. Selman, PLANNING AT THE LANDSCAPE SCALE, Routledge, 2006. ISBN 0415351421, ISBN 9780415351423.
  • Niles Eldredge, Life on Earth: An Encyclopedia of Biodiversity, Ecology, and Evolution, ABC-CLIO, 2002. ISBN 157607286X, ISBN 9781576072868.
  • George W. Cox, Alien Species and Evolution: The Evolutionary Ecology of Exotic Plants, Animals, Microbes, and Interacting Native Species, Island Press, 2004. ISBN 1559630094, ISBN 9781559630092.

Journal articles[edit]

External links[edit]