Information about Bradford's biodiversity

In recent years, concerns about biodiversity loss have become paramount. Without this variability in the living world, ecological systems and functions would break down, with detrimental consequences for all forms of life, the impacts of which are impossible to predict. Consequently, biodiversity is essential to ensuring the basic ecological services and resources necessary to sustain the well-being, not only of current, but also future generations (World Conservation Monitoring Centre 1992).

It is vital that biodiversity is recognised and valued as well as protected. The Earth's biological diversity benefits man through its intrinsic, ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic values.

Conserving biodiversity is one arm of the quest for sustainable development. The concept of conducting biodiversity audits arose as a result of the UK Government's political commitment to sustainable development. Sustainable development has been defined in recent years as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".

Bradford's Biodiversity

Biodiversity is the variety of plants, animals, (including man), insects, fungi and micro-organisms and the habitats upon which they rely.

Diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.


Less than 5% of the Bradford District is woodland compared to a national average of 10%.

The Forest of Bradford Project has planted over 270,000 trees (135 hectares) of new native woodland and hedgerows since 1998.


Bradford District has 3636 hectares of upland heathland and 741 hectares of blanket bog.

Wetlands and watercourses

Bradford’s rivers and streams support a variety of wildlife.

  • Reed Bunting 
  • Flowering Rush 
  • Otter

Bradford has over 50 km of main rivers (Aire, Wharfe and Worth) and 23km of canal running through the district.

Salmon are returning to the River Aire east of Leeds and initiatives to install fish passes could help them reach Bradford’s watercourses.


Hay meadows

These species-rich grasslands are rare both in the Bradford District and nationally (97% decline in 50 years).

In-bye pasture

Enclosed nutrient-poor pasture below the open moorland. Characteristic of the South Pennines. Important breeding and feeding habitat for declining species of birds.

Acid grassland

Influenced by the Millstone Grit underlying rock. Important for sheep underlying rock. Important for sheep grazing and upland breeding birds such as curlew.

Boundaries (hedgerows and walls)

Bradford District has many miles of stone walls.

Walls provide crevices for reptiles, birds, mice and voles, beetles as well as a variety of plants. Hares and stoats will also use walls for shelter in exposed areas. Birds such as northern wheatear use stone walls to perch on and nest in.

Hedgerows are not common in the Bradford District. Some good examples occur at Silsden, Addingham and Menston.

Hedgerows are a key habitat for small mammals, weasels, nesting birds, butterflies and other invertebrates, as well as foraging areas for bats.


Bradford District has 10 large reservoirs which provide valuable habitat for wildfowl and wading birds, as well as aquatic species such as fish, amphibians and water plants.

The rare Great Northern Diver visited Leeming, Leeshaw and Lower Laithe Reservoirs for several weeks in early winter 2002.


The Bradford District has good reserves of valuable blockstone.

Once reserves have been quarried old rock faces regenerate to provide new wildlife habitats.

Urban habitats

Even urban areas can support wildlife.


There are:

  • 27 mammals 
  • 230 birds 
  • 995 plants 
  • 24 butterflies

found in the Bradford District.

Nature reserves

Bradford Council’s Countryside and Rights of Way Service manages nature reserves at:

  • Ilkley Moor SSSI (also part of the South Pennine Moors Special Protection Area and Special Area for Conservation) 
  • Harden Moor 
  • Boar’s Well, near Canal Road 
  • Trench Meadows SSSI, Shipley Glen 
  • Bingley South Bog SSSI 
  • Bingley North Bog 
  • Ryeloaf Meadows, Dowley Gap 
  • Keighley Tarn 
  • Toad Holes Beck, South Bradford

Boar's Well - an Urban Nature Reserve near Canal Road

Boar’s Well was restored from derelict land and planted between 1990 and 1992. Now it has a variety of wildlife habitats for species such as families of long-tailed tits, greenfinch and orange-tip greenfinch and orange-tip butterflies. 

Keighley Tarn (aka Redcar Tarn)

Popular area north west of Keighley which attracts a variety of ducks, geese, gulls, moorhen/coot and other water birds.

Other Council departments also manage sites which benefit wildlife

Wetlands at Pitty Beck, Allerton – managed by Drainage Services.

Parks and Landscapes manage Coppice Bog and Pond at St Ives, near Bingley.

Nature Reserves managed by other groups

Shipley Station Butterfly Meadow

Managed by Bradford Urban Wildlife and Butterfly Conservation. 12 species of butterfly have been recorded on this small site next to Shipley Railway Station.

Denso Marston Wildlife Park at Baildon

Global suppliers of automotive parts have developed a thriving wildlife haven as part of their development. Friends of Denso Marston manage the reserve.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have been working with schools along the River Aire to carry out habitat management and environmental education.

Other YWT projects include their reserve at Low Wood, Riddlesden where bird boxes for pied flycatchers have been erected in trees.

Local Biodiversity Action Plan

The following Habitats and Species have Action Plans to protect and enhance their status in the Bradford District.


  • Upland Oak Woodland 
  • River Corridors 
  • In Bye Pasture 
  • Hedgerows


  • Otter 
  • Water Vole 
  • Pipistrelle 
  • Brown Hare 
  • Crayfish 
  • Grayling (fish) 
  • White Letter Hairstreak 
  • Green Hairstreak 
  • Blue Butterflies 
  • Twite 
  • Yellowhammer 
  • Lapwing 
  • Lesser Twayblade 
  • Marsh Fern

Habitat Action Plans

  • Enclosed pasture and hay meadow below open moorland 
  • Rushes and wet flushes 
  • Wide variety of invertebrates 
  • Important for wading birds – snipe, curlew, lapwing and redshank

Species Action Plans


Otters are returning to the District after a major nationwide decline from the 1950s to the 1980s.

White Letter Hairstreak Butterfly

White letter hairstreak butterflies lay their eggs on elm trees which are uncommon following Dutch Elm Disease.

Your own garden

Biodiversity is never far away – some of the species you might find in your own garden:

  • Bumble Bee 
  • Peacock Butterfly 
  • Common Frog 
  • Long-tailed tit Bluebells