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Statutory Designations

Ramsar Sites – International importance

Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance, designated under the Ramsar Convention of 1971.

Special Protection Areas (SPAs)
– International/European importance

SPAs are areas which have been identified as being of international importance for the breeding, feeding, wintering or the migration of rare and vulnerable species of birds found within European Union countries. They are European designated sites, classified under the Birds Directive, 1979.

All SPAs are also Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). SPA designation provides enhanced protection to SSSIs.

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)
– European importance

SACs are areas which have been given special protection under the European Union’s Habitats Directive. They provide increased protection to a variety of wild animals, plants and habitats and are a vital part of global efforts to conserve the world’s biodiversity.

National Nature Reserves (NNRs)
– National importance

NNRs were initially established to protect sensitive features and to provide ‘outdoor laboratories’ for research, under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, 1949. Their purpose has widened since. As well as managing some of our most pristine habitats, our rarest species and our most significant geology, most NNRs are accessible and provide great opportunities for people to experience nature.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSIs)
– National importance

Sites protected at a national level, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 are called SSSIs. Natural England are the statutory body responsible for their safeguarding, monitoring and improvement.

London has SSSIs designated for their geological interest.

Local Nature Reserves (LNRs)
– Local importance

LNRs are designated for both people and wildlife. They offer people special opportunities to study or learn about nature or simply to enjoy it. LNRs are designated by the local authority under Section 21 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.

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