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Biodiversity in the North East

The biodiversity of the North East Region is tremendously diverse.

Stretching from the Scottish border to the Tees Valley, the Region boasts a wide range of dramatic and rugged landscapes which contain a wealth of wildlife and geological features.

Whilst all of the Regionís biodiversity has value, the area has habitats and species that are extremely important both nationally and internationally, including the following:

On the coast:

  • Maritime cliffs and partly submerged sea caves are of international importance, together with underwater reefs teeming with colourful marine life.
  • The Tees Estuary supports a small breeding population of common seals and the Farne Islands support one of the largest breeding populations of grey seals in the UK.
  • Sand dunes and dune slacks support a number of un-common species, such as dune helleborine, and a range of important bryophytes including liverworts such as petalwort.The intertidal sandflats, mudflats and saltmarshes of Lindisfarne have internationally important populations of wintering birds.
  • The offshore islands of the Farnes and Coquet are internationally important for their populations of breeding seabirds, including roseate tern.
  • The Teesmouth and Cleveland Coast Special Protection Area is recognised internationally for its wintering waterfowl and breeding little terns.

In the uplands:

  • Extensive areas of heather moorland are of international importance for their populations of breeding birds, with over 80% of the English black grouse population being found here.
  • Internationally important blanket and raised bogs support notable invertebrates such as the large heath butterfly and are also important for birds including raptors, grouse and waders.
  • Around 80 - 90% of the UK population of yellow marsh saxifrage and the largest stand of juniper scrub in England can be found in the North Pennines.

The Regionís rivers:

  • The freshwater pearl mussel survives in this Region - one of its few locations in Britain.
  • The River Coquet is one of the best upland rivers in England and supports one of the highest concentrations of dippers in Britain.
  • The River Tweed and its English tributaries support features of European interest such as water-crowfoot beds and otters.
  • Exposed river sediments and banks on the Till support rare beetles including a number of ground beetles, Bembidion spp. and the diving beetle Hydroporus rufifrons.


  • The large conifer plantations and some of the ancient semi-natural woods of the north of England are the final mainland stronghold in England for red squirrels.
  • The northernmost population of the dormouse in the British Isles can be found in the North Pennines.


  • Almost two-thirds of all Magnesian Limestone grassland in Britain is found in the North East Region. This supports nationally scarce plant species such as blue moor-grass and dark-red helleborine and invertebrates like the northern brown argus (known locally as the Durham argus) butterfly, which is restricted to northern England.
  • A large proportion of the UKís upland hay meadows occur in the North East. These small, colourful meadows form a rare habitat linked with low-intensity pastoral agriculture in upland areas.
  • Within Upper Teesdale there is an extremely special calcareous grassland type associated with outcrops of sugar limestone, which is limited to just two localities nationwide.

Arable land:

  • The margins of the large, open fields of arable land in the coastal lowlands support a number of once common species such as brown hare, grey partridge and corn bunting.

These and many other natural treasures that local people value - such as bluebell woods and the parklands of both town and country - all require attention to ensure their survival into the future.

Further detailed information is available in A Biodiversity Audit of the North East.