Priority Habitats Programme

We run a number of programmes to support biodiversity in our region.

Our ‘Priority Habitats’ programme is one of these and makes up approximately 30% of this activity. The programme focuses on restoring and maintaining a representative range of the region’s indigenous ecosystems that remain on private land to a healthy and functioning level.

There are four main components to the programme:

  • Management of the sites currently in the priority habitat programme
  • Assessing new sites of the appropriate ecosystem type and quality to add to the programme
  • Starting biodiversity management at the new sites
  • Monitoring and reporting on the priority habitat sites.

Ecologists Singers&Rodgers identified 72 different indigenous ecosystem types in the Horizons Region (59 terrestrial and 13 wetlands) ranging from alpine types to various forest, coastal dune, grassland and even cliff types.

Each ecosystem is unique, packed with an amazing variety of different indigenous species; huge trees right through to microscopic fungi. This native biodiversity has evolved to live together in complex harmony and we couldn’t hope to recreate it from the small selection of plants available at a nursery.

Prioritisation work has identified 33 indigenous ecosystem types that are particularly rare or threatened in the Horizons region. The biodiversity team actively works to increase the number of priority ecosystems receiving ongoing protection. In 2023, over 83 sites containing 27 of the priority ecosystem types are being actively managed in the Priority Habitats programme.

The Priority Habitats programme seeks out sites where remnants of these priority ecosystems persist, in order to protect and preserve the natural biodiversity there. The programme is non-regulatory, relying on the willing participation of the landowners.

Zonation mapping and satellite imagery can identify potential sites for these priority ecosystem types. The process used to physically assess a site is called a rapid ecological assessment (REA). Science team ecologists and biodiversity staff record all the main species in each layer of vegetation, taking into account soil and geology, weeds and animal pests evident, native birds and insects and the overall condition of the site.

From this the ecosystem type(s) there can be formally identified and the site can be considered for addition to the programme. Management may include fencing and, typically, ongoing weed and animal pest control. Once accepted into this active management programme, the same REA process is repeated every 5 years.

Priority Habitats Programme Flyer


Rapid Ecological Assessment at Bushy Park

Ruth Fleeson (Senior Biodiversity Advisor) arranged for the Biodiversity team to perform a Rapid Ecological Assessment in 2023 out at one of the Council's Priority Habitats - Bushy Park.

In this video you can find out more about the REA process and what makes Bushy Park so special.