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Lapwing Credit: Whitfield Benson

Wildlife and habitats

The Yorkshire Dales National Park has significant areas of 17 different habitats and over 100 different species that are UK priorities and have been facing national declines. The many pressures on land which lead to habitat decline and loss have resulted in much of the British Isles becoming highly fragmented which makes wildlife even more vulnerable. National Park status helps to protect wildlife and habitats from some of these pressures.

As a result the Yorkshire Dales National Park is one of the least fragmented areas in England. This is an invaluable natural asset in terms of biodiversity and ecosystem services as well as having a social and economic benefit. However, the National Park is a constantly changing environment and it is important that wildlife protection is a key consideration during change.

Almost 30% (50,000 hectares) of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is made up of nationally and internationally important habitats – the largest area of any National Park. Geology, natural processes and human influences have created the particular conditions that support rich and diverse wildlife and habitats:

Flower-rich hay meadows and pastures, produced by traditional, low intensity management of grazing land over many decades. These are very scarce nationally – this is one of the few areas where they survive in any number. 

A range of rare limestone habitats linked directly to the geology of the southern Dales. The area’s limestone country is internationally recognised for its biodiversity, which includes rare wet meadows and upland pastures, limestone pavement and limestone woodland and scrub. 

Extensive areas of moorland – much of it (42% of the area of the National Park) managed as grouse moor – that contain upland heath and blanket and raised bog, which are internationally important for wildlife and the carbon they store in peat. These habitats cover vast areas and contain a variety of plant species and important bird populations.

Small areas of broadleaf woodland (2.5% of the area of the National Park), representing remnants of former more extensive broadleaved woodland or later plantings. Surviving areas of ancient woodland are of particularly high biodiversity value. 

Nationally important populations of breeding waders, black grouse, and ring ouzel; rare lime-loving plants such as bird’s-eye primrose, rigid buckler fern, globeflower and baneberry; rare and scarce invertebrates such as the northern brown argus butterfly and the white-clawed crayfish; and important mammals, notably the red squirrel.