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Number of IPAs:165 (47 in Scotland, 90 in England, 24 in Wales, 4 in Northern Ireland)
IPA area covered: 1.6 million ha
165 IPAs have been identified in the UK – 47 in Scotland, 90 in England, 24 in Wales and 4 in Northern Ireland.
Sitting at the edge of Europe and facing the Atlantic Ocean, the unique climate, geology and landscape of the UK conspire to foster exceptional plant communities. Major habitats, such as grasslands, heathlands, wetlands, woodlands and coasts, help define the biogeographic zone and characterise the countryside.
IPAs cover 1.6 million ha of land, or approximately 7% of the UK. Nearly all of the UK’s IPAs are afforded a degree of statutory protection, at least in part, thanks to the extensive network of protected sites such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). 60% of the UK’s threatened plants and lichens are listed as priorities for conservation.
A key feature in the identification of UK IPAs is the consideration of a wide range of taxonomic groups – with IPAs identified for lichens, bryophytes, marine algae, stoneworts, freshwater algae and vascular plants (including arable plant assemblages). Almost a third (32%) of UK IPAs have lichen features, 29% have bryophyte features and 16% have stonewort features. In total, 38% of UK IPAs have been identified for non-vascular plant features.
This wide taxonomic coverage has been critical to the establishment and acceptance of UK IPAs as a conservation tool, accurately reflecting the true importance of these areas. It provides a focus on often lesser known, understood or studied groups and highlights the diversity and complexity of sites and areas.
The identification of the UK IPA network was a major landmark in the UK for plant diversity, however it has been through subsequent focus and partnership action that IPAs have enabled targeted conservation action. The UK IPA network has influenced agri-environment schemes, the assessment of plant diversity within protected landscapes, and strategies such as National Park Action Plans and site management plans.
UK IPA features, and the threats to them, have provided the catalyst for developing partnerships of landowners and managers to deliver large scale conservation work. For example, the removal of Rhododendron ponticum at a catchment-scale from Atlantic woodland IPAs in Wales, and large scale dune conservation across England and Wales.
An ambitious Plantlife project to revitalise populations of Juniper in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire to prevent Juniper from becoming extinct.
Juniper berries, UK
Braunton Burrows Dunes, Devon, UK
Lichen growing in Dartmoor National Park, UK
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