The major habitats found in Britain and the ecological factors that influence plant and animal distribution

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Urban habitat

There are many Habitats within Britain however I feel that the Urban habitat is very dominating. Towns and cities are packed with buildings. Shops, offices, factories, schools, churches and houses are all man-made structures designed with people in mind, but which also provide an important refuge for wildlife in an urban environment

Many animals that live in these areas are domestic; cats, dogs, hamsters, mice etc although a large proportion of animals living amongst us are feral, such as squirrels, hedgehogs, foxes and some species of rabbit, which many are known as ‘vermin’. There are many areas in which our plants and animals survive:

Churchyards

A group of plants known as calcicoles are often found in churchyards. The soil is nourished by a combination of decomposing bones and lime, which leaches into the ground from the weathered headstones above. Limestone also provides ideal conditions for lichens and the golden yellow Xanthoria parietina.

Parks, gardens and allotments

Parks and gardens are among some of the most important and diverse urban habitats in the UK, supporting a great variety of animals and plants.

City parks with their planted trees and ornamental water features are a valuable source of food and shelter for birds whose natural diet is supplemented by visitors who feed bread to the ducks. Many of us encourage wildlife into our gardens by feeding the birds, building ponds, putting up bird boxes and planting flowers and shrubs to attract butterflies

Railway embankments

Railway embankments are largely unmanaged areas of ground that are free from human disturbance and this encourages wildlife to establish itself.

There are many factors that affect the animals in our Urban habitats for example; roads create many deaths among the animals, also, diseases including mixamatosis, and fox hunting are all some of the factors which affect them.

Coastal habitat

Another dominating habitat of Britain is our coastline. On the Sussex coast this habitat mainly comprises of; shingle banks, salt marshes and mudflats. There are also sand dunes but these are scarce and there are only two left in the county (Climping and East head.) The sand dunes are scarce as they come under severe recreational pressure in summer.

One way that we can conserve sand dunes is by promoting the growth of Marram grass and also making different pathways for users of the beach and sand dunes.

Recreational abuse on the Marram grass and sand dunes is one way that this habitat is being affected

There are many areas of our coastal habitat where plants and animals survive:

Cliffs

Cliffs can be divided into two broad types: hard and soft. Most hard rock cliffs have ledges where seabirds such as fulmars can nest, while gulls prefer to breed on grassy cliff-tops. Cliffs built from soft rocks, like sandstone, are continually weathered away. This makes it difficult for plants to establish a foothold and impossible for large seabirds to nest. These softer cliffs attract burrow-nesting birds like puffins and sand martins, and invertebrate species such as mining bees, digger wasps and weevils will also establish colonies here.

Rocky Beaches

Rock pools are found at all levels of the rocky shore and the plants and animals that live in them must be able to cope with sudden changes in water temperature and salinity when the tides come in.

Mountain habitat

Britain has many hills but few really high mountain ranges. All of these areas are uplands, however, and share many features. A mountain is generally considered to be land that rises well above its surroundings to a summit, usually greater than 610m (2,000ft). About half of Britain is classified as upland and there are many species that thrive here and may not often be seen elsewhere:

When snow covers the ground the mountain hare turns white so it blends in and cannot be easily seen by predators. Mountain hares feed on woody plants, such as heather and dwarf shrubs, although they prefer grass when available. They travel in groups of 20 or more, to shelter and to feed. Mammals are not the only wildlife to grace the mountain habitats invertebrate also live here. Upland invertebrates consist of many of the species found elsewhere, but diversity is lower and they are fewer in numbers. As it is colder for longer here, the activity of invertebrates is often limited to specific times of the year and chance warm weather spells during winter.

Mountain summits are some of the few places in Britain to remain relatively unchanged by human activity. Though the thin soil is easily eroded by crowds of people taking on the challenge of a mountain summit, the land is not fertile enough to farm, and only a few feral goats roam here.

Fresh water habitats

From small streams, ponds and wetlands to large rivers and lakes, freshwater habitats cover less than 1% of Great Britain. Even a tiny droplet of water teems with microscopic life and something as unremarkable and temporary as a drainage ditch might contain fish and fairy shrimps. There is a lot of variety of plant and animal life in a healthy well-established pond or a large, natural freshwater lake.

Lakes

Some plant and animal species are suited to life in a larger, still water body, such as a lake or reservoir. The water quality is quite different to that of a small pond and the species are adapted accordingly. From tiny planktonic organisms to fish larger than a pond could support, the warmer lowland lakes of the southern parts of Britain contain a diverse range of life. Move further north and higher up to the large, cold, clear lakes of the highlands, and the contrast is remarkable. The clarity of these waters shows how little plankton there is in the water.

Ponds

Ponds teem with life and support around 66% of the UK species that depend on a freshwater environment. Many of these species are rare or protected. As with other water bodies, a well-established habitat supports greater variety and larger quantities than a newer one, but even an artificial garden pond can quickly harbour a diverse range. Smaller ponds may not exist all year round, but may dry out in the summer. There are many hundreds of species that thrive in the fresh water environment however the most obvious specie is fish.

Fish

From tiny minnows and sticklebacks in ponds to monstrous pikes in lakes, Britain’s fresh waterways contain many different fish. Some are easily spotted in clear, shallow water others give themselves away with characteristic ripples or leaps from the water. In fast-flowing water, you might find trout that are muscular and well-developed for swimming against the flow and salmon that have swum hundreds of miles uphill to their breeding grounds. Carp thrive in slow-flowing, warm water as they need a specific temperature in which to breed.

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