Adverse Activities

 

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The results of the assessment of those activities and factors considered to be adversely affecting feature condition, in relation to the total of features assessed, are summarised in Figure 5.  See Annex 1 for a list of the categories agreed for reporting purposes at a UK level. 
 
Lack of remedial management is mentioned most often as the factor causing unfavourable condition.  In many cases this relates to long-term neglect or gradual deterioration, and is a signal call that conservation management is required.  Grazing (either under-grazing or over-grazing) is mentioned very commonly, for many feature types, as the activity causing unfavourable condition.  It is perhaps the largest single cause for concern.  It is, for example, the main factor suggested for the unfavourable condition of lowland heathland; the habitat in worst condition.  There is a general trend toward over-grazing in upland habitats and under-grazing in the lowlands. 
 
Over-grazing leads to loss of vegetation structure and the failure of more palatable or vulnerable species to reproduce and maintain themselves.  It can also lead to the loss of plant species and associated fauna, and the spread of rank, unpalatable plant species.  In extreme cases, very heavy grazing and trampling can lead to exposure of bare soil and erosion.  Under-grazing commonly results in scrub encroachment, sometimes together with invasive species problems.  There is a need, in many habitats, for grazing to be undertaken at the right time and with the right intensity.
 

Figure 5. Activities associated with unfavourable condition

 
Figure 5. Activities associated with unfavourable condition
Whilst the picture is quite complex and the key adverse activities vary between features, the clear message from this analysis is that more needs to be done to ensure that management of designated sites is appropriate to the features for which they are important.
 
It is often very difficult to determine the effects of air pollution on SSSIs, given the complex interactions between pollution impacts, management and abiotic influences.  As a result, the impacts of air pollution, and the identification of air pollution as an adverse activity affecting condition, are considered to be substantially under-reported in this assessment.