Natural Heritage

Shetland has rich and varied natural heritage, being home to many significant species of animal and plants and internationally important habitats, such as blanket bog. The geology of Shetland is very varied, particularly when considering the land area of the Islands, spanning almost 3 billion years.

The varied natural heritage requires varied management or conservation, with important input from both the public and private sector, including vital input from land owners and managers.

The Biodiversity Duty

The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 gives all public bodies in Scotland a duty to “further the conservation of biodiversity” as they carry out their work. This Biodiversity Duty means that the Council has a duty to consider the impact on biodiversity of all its activities.

The Council has now published its BIODIVERSITY DUTY REPORT 2021 - 2023 which sets out how the Council has complied with the biodiversity duty for the period 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2023.

Biodiversity Duty Report 2021-2023
Biodiversity Duty Report for Shetland Islands Council 2021-2023

Designated Sites

There are a number of different designated sites that occur in Shetland, these include:

  • Special Areas of Conservation
  • Special Protection Areas
  • Ramsar Sites
  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest
  • National Scenic Areas
  • National Nature Reserves

More information on specific designated sites in Shetland can be found on SNH’s Sitelink website.

Local Nature Conservation Sites

As part of the Local Development Plan, 49 sites of importance that are not designated under legislation were identified as deserving of protection. Information on the proposed Local Nature Conservation Sites can be found in the Local Nature Conservation Site Supplementary Guidance to the emerging Local Development Plan.

Geopark Shetland

More information on the geology of Shetland can be found on the Geopark Shetland website.

Living Shetland

Living Shetland is the Island’s Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP), it identifies locally important habitats and species and highlights and promotes actions to conserve these. Living Shetland was developed with a wide range of partner organisations helping to coordinate its development and implementation.

LBAPs are a way of stimulating effective local action for national priorities identified in the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy (see here:, as well as for species and habitats important at the local level. LBAPs are also aimed at stimulating new actions at the local level, with local involvement.

LBAPs aim to:

  • Translate national targets for habitats and species, as specified in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, into effective action at the local level
  • Stimulate effective local working partnerships to ensure that programmes for biodiversity conservation are developed and maintained
  • Raise awareness of the need and responsibilities for biodiversity conservation and enhancement in the local context
  • Identify biodiversity resources and priorities in the local area
  • Identify targets for species and habitats important to the local area, including both the rare and the common, according to local circumstances
  • Ensure that delivery mechanisms for conservation and enhancement of biodiversity resources are promoted and understood at the local level
  • Provide a local basis for monitoring progress in biodiversity conservation

Living Shetland is now (2018) in its 20th year and has been highlighting biodiversity actions since then.  Some of the original publications have been overtaken by events and have been archived but the species and habitat plans remain as useful reference so are retained on this page below. Also here is a summary document celebrating 20 years of action by Scottish Biodiversity Partnerships - you will find details about the Shetland Partnership’s work on page 18.

20 Years of Scottish Biodiversity Partnerships

Biodiversity Action Plan Documents
Arable Birds
Arable Plants
Arctic Char
Breeding Waders
Harbour Porpoise
Red-necked Phalarope
Red-Throated Diver
Ungrazed Areas



The Council may make Tree Preservation Orders to protect individual and groups of trees considered important for amenity or for their cultural or historic interest.  The consent of the Council is required to undertake any works to trees protected by a Tree Preservation Order.

Trees in Conservation Areas are also given protection.  Any proposed works to a tree or trees in a Conservation Areas require to be notified in advance to the Council’s Planning Service.  This is to give the Council the opportunity to consider if it wishes to make the tree(s) the subject of a Tree Preservation Order.


Natural Heritage Officer
Planning Service
Development Services
Shetland Islands Council 
8 North Ness Business Park 
Lerwick, Shetland 

Tel: +44 (01595) 744293