Buxton Field Club - Environments section
Cunningdale middle section, looking south

Cunningdale (also known as Seven Dales) is a limestone dale on the north-east outskirts of Buxton which consists of a linear mosaic of habitat types, including: allotments, pasture, mixed broadleaf woodland, calcareous grassland, scrub and the remains of industrial (quarry) workings (once brownfield habitat). The dale is rich in bird, insect, mammal and plantlife, and the south-east end of the dale includes a SSSI site.

Wildlife and habitats

Although we often think of habitats in terms of geographical areas, such as areas of woodland, grassland, moorland, wetlands, rivers, seashores, oceans, etc, a habitat is not necessarily a geographical area, but can be a lot smaller in scale, depending upon the organisms we are talking about. So, and individual tree such as an oak tree can provide a habitat for an incredibly rich variety of birds, insects, fungi, lichen and more. The interior of a stem or a leaf or a rotten log can provide the habitat for an insect larva, beetle, bug, fungus or mould. Symbiotic and parasitic organisms can have  their habitats in the bodies of their hosts, parts of their host’s body (such as the digestive tract), or a single cell within the host’s body. For example, the human body is host to a multitude of microbes and symbiotic lifeforms in its digestive tracts without which it would not survive.

Every lifeform has certain needs for the habitat conditions in which it will thrive, but some are tolerant of wide variations while others are very specific in their requirements.

An individual plant community will be situated within a particular habitat. Such plant communities may be able to spread to and exist in other habitats, for example flower species that can establish communities in fields and in woodlands. Individual animal communities will reside within particular habitats but may be able to move between them and other neighbouring habitats in search of food or breeding grounds, etc. 

Habitat categorisation and classification schemes

Given that there is a vital interdependence between the physical conditions of any given habitat and the range, variety and abundance of the plant and animal species within that habitat, it follows that there is a vast range of different habitats, not only around the world but within any particular geographical area. Also, habitats change as the world changes, as physical conditions such as climate change and as plant and animal communities thrive or decline and as species evolve or become extinct.

This abundance of interactive and changing diversity in habitats at all scales makes their categorisation and classification an interesting challenge, the key problem being in where you draw the lines in trying to define the boundaries between different types of habitat. There are many schemes that have been and continue to be developed for different uses. 

We give outlines here of some of the current schemes in use in the UK at this time, including that which we use as the basis for the classifications used in these pages.

Click the button to to go to our page on habitat types in the High Peak, which uses a list of habitat types developed from and consistent with these schemes. 

Habitat maps

Living England Habitat Map (Phase 4)

A new map that shows the extent and distribution of habitats in England has been launched by Natural England on 4 April 2002. This probability map, which is freely available to view and use, will provide important data for environmental policy decision making,

The map is produced by Living England, which is a multi-year project that delivers a habitat probability map for the whole of England, created using satellite imagery, field data records and other geospatial data in a machine learning framework. The map shows the extent and distribution of broad habitats across England, with the intention of providing a valuable insight into our natural capital assets and helping to inform land management decisions. It is funded by and supports the Environmental Land Management (ELM) Schemes and the Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment (NCEA) Programme.

Click the button to go to the map itself. Click here to go to Natural England’s blog giving the background to its development and access to the map and supporting documents.

Habitat changes, ecological succession and biodiversity

Given that there is a vital interdependence between the physical conditions of any given habitat and the range, variety and abundance of plant and animal species within that habitat, it follows that there is a vast range of different habitats, not only around the world but within any particular geographical area. Also, habitats change as the world changes, as physical conditions such as climate change and as plant and animal communities thrive or decline and as species evolve or become extinct. 

Habitats change as physical circumstances change and as the species change and evolve their relationships with each other and their habitat. Ecological succession is the process of change in the species structure of a habitat or an ecological community over time. The time scale can be years, decades, centuries or millenia.

Biodiversity is a contracted form of the term biological diversity, and is now generally used in place of earlier terms such as species diversity and species richness. It is a scientific term which is rapidly gaining in common and popular use, and is generally taken as a measure or indicator of the biological variety and variability of life in a particular habitat at whatever scale, from the small and local to the whole Earth.

The effects of geological change, climate change and human activity

The geological and life history of Buxton and the High Peak

Relationships between life forms and habitats

The effects of climate change and human activity on Buxton and the High Peak

Climate change and human activities.

The changing habitats of Buxton and the High Peak

Without the right habitats there will not be the wildlife that needs those habitats in order to survive and flourish.

Restoring the balance and protecting the future

Rewilding, wilding, habitat conservation and restoration, regenerative farming and sustainable agriculture.

References and guides

Britain’s Habitats: A field guide to the wildlife habitats of Great Britain and Ireland (2nd edition)

Sophie Lake, Durwyn Liley, Robert Still and Andy Swash

rewilding britain (Princeton WILDGuides)

Comprehensive illustrated photographic guide to the natural history of wildlife habitats in Britain and Ireland.

UKHab: UK Habitats Classification System: a new, free-to-use, unified and comprehensive approach to classifying habitats, designed to provide a simple and robust approach to survey and monitoring for the 21st century.

RSPB have an interesting and useful facts guide on UK habitats on their website – see here.