Features are the species, habitats and geological 'things'
which are reasons why sites are protected. For example,
they might be
- seals, butterflies, breeding birds
- woodlands, lagoons, heathlands
- fossils, landforms
CSM is not intended to be all the monitoring that takes place
on protected sites, but is intended to provide an early warning
system whether all is well or not. If a decision is taken that a
feature is in unfavourable condition further investigation should
be made to ascertain the reasons why and corrective action taken.
This may involve issues on sites or off site but which impact on
The monitoring process assigns a feature to one of a small
number of standard conditions – these are the state of the feature
at a particular point in time :
- Favourable condition – the objectives for that feature
are being met, it is in the state that we want.
- Unfavourable condition – the state of the feature is
- Destroyed (partially or completely) – the feature is
no longer present and there is no prospect of being able to restore
Where the feature is Unfavourable a further
assessment is made as to whether the state of the feature is:
- Recovering, i.e moving towards the desired state.
- Declining, i.e moving away from the desired
- No-change, i.e. neither improving nor declining.
Where the feature is favourable a decision is made to
determine if it is
- Maintained, i.e. it has remained favourable since the
- Recovered, i.e. it has changed from unfavourable since
the last assessment.
How do we decide if a feature is in favourable or
For each feature a small number of characteristics
(attributes) have been chosen that describe its condition, and
targets are set for each attribute. Together these should give us a
reasonably robust idea of whether the feature is as we wish.
- Attributes must be quantifiable and measurable.
- Habitat attributes may include extent, floristic composition,
vegetation structure, and physical characteristics.
- Species attributes may include population size, species
distribution, and habitat factors.
- It is desirable for the same suite of attributes to be used for
each interest feature across the UK.
- Assessment of condition is against pre-set targets for the
feature(s) on that site.
- Favourable condition is defined by setting broad targets for
each attribute of the interest feature.
- Targets should describe the desired state of an interest
- Targets should reflect geographical variation and local
distinctiveness - they will often be influenced by site-specific
- Ecosystem dynamics must be taken into account, e.g.
successional changes on sand dunes.
How is CSM carried out?
- In general, condition assessments should be capable of being
undertaken by operational staff within the agencies.
- For some interest features, it may be necessary to have
specialist input or to use data held by other organisations.
- Condition assessments will often be based on a structured walk
across the site, but may utilise other information (e.g. aerial
- Field testing is essential to ensure that results are robust
How are the results used?
- The assessment is intended to help guide management of the
- If the condition of the feature is Favourable, or Unfavourable,
recovering then no change in management may be needed.
- If the feature is Unfavourable no-change, or Unfavourable
declining then changes to bring the site into at least
Unfavourable, recovering condition should be sought.