The UK supports a wide variety of species and habitats,
ranging from cold water coral reefs to saltmarshes and mountain
summits. A key policy tool for conserving them all is the
designation and management of protected sites - areas of land,
inland water and the sea that have special legal protection to
conserve important habitats and species.
Legal protection prevents damaging activities. Some of the
sites, known as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for Birds and
Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), are of
European importance. They have been created under the EC Birds Directive and Habitats Directive. Iin the UK they form part of
a larger European network called Natura 2000.
In addition, the UK and its Overseas Territories and Crown
Dependencies also contribute to global networks of protected sites
created under the Ramsar, World Heritage and OSPAR Conventions.
Within the UK sites that are nationally important for plants,
animals or geological or physiographical features are protected by
law as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) – or in
Northern Ireland as Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs) -
and Marine Nature Reserves (MNRs). This system provides the
underpinning statutory protection for all sites, including
those which are also of international importance.
The JNCC acts on behalf of the statutory conservation agencies
and associated government departments by collecting information on
designated sites for nature conservation in the UK and the Overseas
Territories and Crown Dependencies. We also assist in the
interpretation of criteria for site selection and in forming
guidelines to aid that process.
Our role supporting establishment and management of protected
- Carrying out surveys and analysing data to support the
selection and review of SPAs at sea and on land;
- Identifying and selecting SACs and SPAs in UK offshore
waters and co-ordinating with country agencies the
submission of details on all potential Natura 2000 sites to the
- Working towards creating a network of well-managed marine protected
areas under the OSPAR Convention.
- Developing cost-effective approaches with the country agencies
to monitoring and
assessing the “favourable conservation status”of European
priority habitats and species.
- Developing guidance on the use of new Earth Observation
techniques in terrestrial habitat surveillance, based around the
- Maintaining guidance on the selection of biological
and geological SSSIs in Great Britain.