Due to its rich and varied geological, natural and cultural history, Brighton and Hove is home to a suite of internationally rare and important habitats and species.
As a result, Brighton and Lewes Downs is a designated UNESCO Biosphere, the first of its kind in the UK.
The Brighton and Eastern Downs region finished top in the UK in the City Nature Challenge in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The CNC is an international “Bioblitz” in which cities across the globe compete in an attempt to record as many different species as possible over a 4 day period!
Brighton and Hove’s green and bluespaces include our gardens, city parks, railway embankments, road verges, school playing fields, urban Local Wildlife Sites and Nature Reserves, our coastline and the sea beyond. This mosaic of coastal, woodland, wetland, scrub and grassland habitats compliments our city’s vast Downland estate which extends out from the urban fringe in an arc from Southwick to Saltdean.
All areas for nature have value to the community and connectivity between these areas is extremely important for allowing our wildlife to move safely through the city.
An Urban Refuge
Even in the busy centre of Brighton and Hove our city is home to an abundance of wildlife, much of which is struggling elsewhere in the landscape. We share our homes, streets, parks and gardens with iconic murmurating European Starlings, bustling B-banks and fantastic Red Foxes.
Ancient Woodland and Archaic Scrub
In Stanmer park’s great wood, Brighton and Hove has many ancient and veteran trees scattered throughout the ancient woodland, with seas of Bluebells and Wood Anemones carpeting the woodland understory in spring. The largest and oldest surviving English Elm in Europe can be found in Preston Park, and Britain’s tallest native tree, a majestic 44m tall Beech, is located at Devil’s Dyke.
We also have areas of archaic Gorse scrub on the Downs, home to Green Hairstreak Butterflies, Hazel Dormice and Adders.
Find out more about Brighton and Hove’s precious National Elm Collection and White-letter Hairstreak Butterflies.
Chalk Grassland: Our Rainforest in Miniature
Brighton and Hove has large areas of Lowland Calcareous Grassland aka ‘chalk grassland’ within its city limits.
This rare and internationally important habitat is home to a profusion of tiny fragile plants, which provide food for countless invertebrates and their larvae. These in turn feed a whole food web beyond, from hovering Kestrels and singing Skylarks to basking Adders and glowing Glow Worms.
The Living Coast: Vegetated Coastal Shingle, The Strandline, Rockpools and the Great Blue Beyond….
Our shingle beaches are also home to many specialist plants and invertebrates, adapted to the extreme conditions found on the shingle, such as Yellow Horned Poppy. On the ever-changing strandline the sea deposits all sorts of interesting natural things on our beaches, from Mermaid’s Purses (ray, skate and shark egg cases) and crab carapaces to Cuttlefish eggs.
As the South Downs collapse into the sea they form rockpools, which are part of the globally rare habitat that is our Chalk Reef, home to a colliderscopic array of creatures.
Our Chalk Reef extends way out beyond the rockpools of the intertidal zone. In the seas off Brighton and Hove and the surrounding area you will find schools of Black Bream, Short-snouted Seahorses and pods of Bottlenose Dolphins.
“BHWF looks forward to a future where nature and our community live together to our mutual benefit, enabling our city to play its part in addressing the nature and climate crises.”
Last updated 25 February 2021