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

Ilkley Moor – Site of Special Scientific Interest, part of Special Protection Area and Special Area for Conservation

Upland moorland habitat including heather, bilberry, moorland grasses and blanket bog. The moor supports internationally important bird species such as golden plover, short-eared owl, merlin, curlew, and lapwing.

Bingley South Bog – Site of Special Scientific Interest

Valley mire with a mosaic of damp grassland and wetland plant communities; particularly good range of sedges and regionally rare Marsh Cinquefoil (Potentilla palustris). Can be seen from Bingley Relief Road which crosses the site.

Trench Meadows

Trench Meadows is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) near Shipley Glen.

The site contains 4.7 hectares of lowland meadow – a nationally rare habitat.

The presence of Black Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) and Devil’s Bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) indicate the importance of this species-rich grassland.

The site is managed by grazing. 

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

Boar’s Well was restored from derelict land and planted between 1990-1992. 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 – 1980s

White Letter Hairstreak Butterfly

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

Designated Sites

Over 18% of the Bradford District is designated for nature conservation:

  • 1 Special Protection Area/Special Area of Conservation (SPA/SAC) – South Pennine Moors internationally important moorland sites – 4295 hectares (includes Council owned Ilkley Moor and the moors above Haworth and Bronte Country (Haworth Moor, Keighley Moor, Oxenhope Moor, Thornton Moor)
  • 3 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) – nationally important sites – 4304 hectares (includes SPA/SACs) 
  • 22 Sites of Ecological/Geological Importance (SEGI) – regionally important sites – 390 hectares + 84km waterways 
  • 152 Bradford Wildlife Areas (BWA) – locally important wildlife sites – 2500 hectares

Protected Species

Some species are protected by national and international laws, e.g.

  • Bats
    8 species of bat are found in the Bradford District. Their roosts are sometimes destroyed by insensitive development, house repairs or tree felling. This is an offence under the European and national law 
  • Badgers 
  • Otters 
  • Water voles
    Water voles are now rare in the Bradford District due to: 
    • Competition from illegally-released mink 
    • Loss of bankside habitat and disturbance

    The Countryside and Rights of Way Service would welcome any sightings of water voles in the Bradford District (Telephone 01274 432425).

  • White Clawed Crayfish

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