The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has a long history of nature conservation in policy and practice, reflected in numerous pieces of legislation and in the high numbers of conservation organisations and their memberships totalling millions of UK citizens. In fact, Britain is widely accepted as "having the most comprehensive and the most advanced system of nature conservation in the world. In no other country is there so comprehensive a network and nowhere else is the cause of conservation so widespread, and indeed, so passionate, a measure of public support"(Vesey-Fitzgerald, 1969 from ‘A History of Nature Conservation in Britain’ 2nd ed. 1997 by David Evans, Published by Routledge).

Although lacking in extremes—there are no high mountains, no true deserts and no major rivers—the UK is, in fact, remarkably variable biophysically, ecologically and socially, with complex underlying geology, a wide climatic range (from very wet to semi-arid), and large variations in the distribution of the human population, from extensive areas of near-wilderness (in Scotland) to one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas (Greater London). In the UK National Ecosystem Assessment, this diversity has been captured in eight Broad Habitat types: mountains, moorlands and heaths, semi-natural grasslands, enclosed farmland, woodlands, freshwaters (open waters, wetlands and floodplains), urban, coastal waters and marine.

IUCN National Committee UK has one of the largest memberships in the Union made up from 46 international organisations, NGOs, and a state member (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA) representing a number of government departments and state agencies (the United Kingdom comprises four countries: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, where biodiversity and the natural environment are ’devolved responsibilitiies’). 

Read about protected areas in the UK in Synergy, a dedicated newsletter by IUCN National Committee UK.