Near the airport in Alderney there is a small area of heathland - this type of habitat only occurs on very poor, acidic soil. Soil type in an area often defines a habitat becuase only certain plants can grow in different soil types, types of soil include acidic, peaty, clay and sandy. The plants that grow in an area in turn determine what other species live there, for example in a woodland you get a lot of fallen leaves which rot and provide a habitat for insects. These insects are then a food source for animals higher up the food chain such as birds and mammals.

The main plants found on healthland are heather and gorse

                               Bell Heather

                                       Gorse

Heathland is a rare and threatened habitat, making it a priority for the AWT to protect. It degrades easily so much be maintained as a habitat by removing trees and other shrubs which alter the soil and plants found there. Many species found in heath habitats are very specialised (Can you think how species might be specialised to live in a heath?). Reptiles such as snakes and lizards are found on heathland becuase the dry soils give great basking places. Here in Alderney we only have one type of reptile - slow worms, they are found in our coastal heath.

Another species found exclusively on heaths is the Dartford Warbler. Their population fell in the UK to very low numbers but recovered again to a few thousand now. In Alderney we have a few breeding pairs, people that come to visit often really want to see this little bird.

                            Dartford Warbler

You can find 20% of all lowland heath in Europe in the UK, which is why the UK must legally protect them. Can you think of any other habitats that are protected in the UK?