Species status

Review of the conservation status of centipedes, millipedes and woodlice (2015)

Thumbnail image of publication cover.This up to date review of the conservation status of centipedes, millipedes and woodlice was published by Natural England in 2015.

This review of the Diplopoda, Chilopoda and Isopoda of Great Britain assesses the conservation status of centipedes, millipedes, woodlice and waterlice and identifies the species found in the UK that are considered to be ‘vulnerable’, ‘endangered’ or ‘critically endangered’. It also officially assigns Nationally Rare and Nationally Scarce status to species for the first time.

Despite their small size, millipedes and woodlice are the heroes of the British countryside, and especially our woodlands, where they provide an essential ecosystem service in helping with the decomposition of plant material. These groups of minibeasts are highly sensitive to their environment and are regarded as excellent indicators of the health of the natural environment.

A copy of the review can be downloaded here.  

Species Conservation - An historical perspective

The conservation of centipedes, millipedes and woodlice is largely in an early information gathering stage. Although the collection of ecological information has been an integral part of the recording schemes since their inception, so far these data have not been put to practical use. There are no examples of site protection or habitat management aimed at conserving these groups.

The records collected by BMIG members have been used in assessments of  the conservation status of centipedes, millipedes and woodlice in the UK.

The rarity of each species (as determined by the number of ten kilometre squares from which it had been recorded) was the basis for the inclusion of the seven species listed below in the British Red Data Book (Bratton, 1991). With one exception, all of these species were classed as RDB K, Insufficiently Known.

There was no formal status review undertaken of myriapods and isopods but the same ten kilometre square data were used to assign nationally notable status to species in the Recorder 3 biological recording database. A revision of the conservation status of British myriapods and isopods through the application of IUCN criteria is in progress.

The ten kilometre square data was used again when proposing millipede species for inclusion in the UK BAP.  In addition Harding et al. (1995) considered the British fauna in a European context when estimating the global importance of UK populations. This analysis produced a list of nine species. Advisors to the UK Biodiversity Steering Group, without further consultation, removed three species from this list (Thalassisobates littoralis, Cylindroiulus britannicus and Ophyiulus pilosus) and added one (Trachysphaera lobata) to produce a list of seven species that were inluded in the UK BAP 'Long List of Globally Threatened or Declining Species' (Harding, 1998).

Recording scheme data was used yet again to assess whether UK populations were of global importance and to estimate population declines when the revision of the BAP priority species lists was started in 2005. When the lists were published in 2007 they contained no woodlice, just one centipede and three millipedes.  By this time responsibility for species conservation had passed to individual country agencies. The NERC Act 2006 Schedule 41 required the Secretary of State to publish a list of species of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity in England. This resulted in the four myriapods identified in the BAP list reappraisal process being included on Schedule 41. These species are:

These S41 species have attracted conservation funding from Natural England and Defra. Most notably BMIG collaborated with Hymettus to bid for a Defra contract to undertake research on the taxonomy, status and ecology of terrestrial invertebrates. This bid was successful and between 2010 and 2012 BMIG members were involved in several projects aimed at improving knowledge of the taxonomy, distribution and ecology of the four S41 myriapod species.


Bratton, J.H. (ed.) 1991. British Red Data Books: 3. Invertebrates other than insects. Peterborough, JNCC.

Harding, P.T., Suheimat, L., Eversham, B.C. and Roy, D.B. 1995. Preliminary analysis of data for selected invertebrate groups as candidates for inclusion in the Biodiversity Action Plan 'long list' and the BURD database. Part 1: Preliminary lists of Coleoptera - Carabidae, butterflies, Orthoptera, Odonata and Diplopoda. In Harding, P.T., Palmer, M.A., Ball, S.G. and Procter, D. UK Biodiversity Action Plan: rationale for validation of a list of invertebrates of 'conservation concern' and for the development of national lists of priority species. (Part 2 of Third Annual Report on support for the Biological Records Centre 1995/96). Unpublished contract report by Institute of Terrestrial Ecology to Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

Harding, P.T. 1998. Rationale for the inclusion of seven species of millipede on the UK biodiversity action plan. Bulletin of the British Myriapod Group. 14: 5-9.