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Representation of specialist bryophytes, centipedes, dragonflies and hoverflies in the United Kingdom’s protected area network (JNCC Report 722) 2022


Habitat specialist species – narrowly adapted species which exploit relatively few niches – tend to be more vulnerable than generalist species and have a limited ability to respond to environmental perturbations in comparison to more generalist species, which means their habitat must be protected. Protected areas (PAs) may offer some refuge, but only to species whose habitat they overlap with geographically.

In this report, the extent of overlap between species’ potential geographic distributions and Protected Areas in the United Kingdom (UK) was assessed. The focus was on 1,083 species of bryophyte, centipede, dragonfly and hoverfly (adult phases for the latter two). These assessments were used to categorise estimates of species’ levels of specialism, and habitat suitability, as “reasonable” (294 species), “poor” (107 species) or unassessed (682 species).

The assessment found that specialists are better represented in the UK’s PA network than generalists. This finding is robust to the choice of method used to categorise habitat as suitable or unsuitable. However, the extent to which specialists are better represented than generalists depends on the species considered: specialists appear relatively better represented when considering all species than when focusing on the species which were assessed to be “reasonable”.

These results demonstrate the need for conservation actions that consider all taxa rather than a select few. Going forward, it would be useful to consider additional habitat features, such as geology and soil type, which are likely more important for some taxa than those used here. It would also be useful to consider alternative measures of vulnerability such as rarity.

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Resource type Publication

Topic category Environment

Reference date 2022·09·01

Boyd, R., Wright, E., Pescott, O., Morris, R., Preston, C., Hassall, R. & Isaac, N. 2022. Representation of specialist bryophytes, centipedes, dragonflies and hoverflies in the United Kingdom’s protected area network. JNCC Report No. 722 (Research and Review Report), JNCC, Peterborough, ISSN 0963-8091.

This report was produced for JNCC under Contract number C16-0301-1073, with additional input and expertise from the co-authors.

Responsible organisation
Communications, JNCC publisher

Limitations on public access No limitations

Use constraints Available under the Open Government Licence 3.0

Metadata date 2022·10·04

Metadata point of contact
Communications, JNCC

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