Irish Vegetation Classification

Client: National Biodiversity Data Centre

RH1A Asplenium trichomanesCtenidium molluscum crevice community, Gorteendarragh, Arroo Mountain, Co. Leitrim, photo by Rory Hodd

Classifying, mapping and describing habitats and vegetation is a bread-and-butter task for many people involved in ecological research or environmental management. Notwithstanding the success of the Fossitt habitat classification, which is widely used by ecologists in Ireland, there is still a need for a scheme that will permit a more detailed level of  recording, such as when monitoring change in vegetation or conducting surveys of protected habitats or sites (Phase II surveys in UK parlance). This requirement is reflected in the National Biodiversity Action Plan. Numerous theses and national surveys have produced detailed, separate classifications of specific habitats, but they vary considerably in methodology and the specificity of the categories. Although the British National Vegetation Classification (NVC) has been employed for some purposes in Northern Ireland, it is not directly applicable to Irish vegetation due to significant differences in habitats and flora. The Irish Vegetation Classification (IVC) seeks to meet this requirement by producing a single, unified framework which describes in detail all aspects of Irish natural and semi-natural vegetation. The project was commissioned by the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC) in 2015 with funding from the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS). Initial development is due to be completed around 2020

In achieving the overall objective the IVC is guided by the following six principles:

  1. It will be statistically-based and validated.
  2. It will be a vegetation classification (not a habitat classification)
  3. It will recognise the vegetation continuum (and hence community transitions)
  4. It will be user-friendly (readily and consistently applied by a range of potential users)
  5. It will be hierarchical (facilitating application of the classification at different scales)
  6. It will be expandable and updatable (through choice of statistics and by being primarily a web-based resource)

More information on the project and resources produced so far can be found on the NBDC website here:

(This description is taken from the In Practice article below introducing the IVC)


Perrin, P.M., FitzPatrick, Ú. & Lynn, D. (2018) The Irish Vegetation Classification – An Overview of Concepts, Structures and Tools. In PracticeBulletin of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management. Issue 102.