1.Britain is unusual in the quantity and quality of species and habitat data available, at both national and regional scales. This paper reviews the sources, coverage and quality of these data.
2.Habitat and species data are used by conservation agencies in England, Scotland and Wales for site selection and for monitoring habitat quality. The paper argues, however, that neither habitat data nor species distribution data on their own are sufficient to locate and monitor habitats for nature conservation purposes effectively.
3.Differences in sampling methodologies between habitat and species surveys present methodological difficulties for the development of an integrated monitoring system that uses both types of data. These problems need to be overcome if habitat and species data are to be used more effectively for nature conservation in the wider countryside.
4.A more integrated system based on the concept of biotope occupancy is proposed and discussed. The implementation of the system would assist with understanding those factors that explain observed patterns in species distribution and diversity, thereby helping to improve the effectiveness of policies for nature conservation.