Marine Conservation Zone Features


Ocean quahog (Arctica islandica) © Paul Kay Fragile sponge and anthozoan communities on subtidal rocky habitats © Keith Hiscock St John's jellyfish (Lucernariopsis cruxmelitensis) © Steve Trewhella Sea pen and burrowing megafauna communities © Sue Scott JNCC


There are thousands of habitats and species in our marine environment making it unrealistic to select MPAs for each one. This is why we have grouped habitats and species together into broad-scale habitats, which take the place of more detailed information on biodiversity. Protecting examples of these broad-scale habitats across our Marine Protected Area network will help make sure that the full range of marine biodiversity in our seas is conserved.


In addition, we need to pay particular attention to protecting threatened, rare, or declining species and habitats – referred to together as Features of Conservation Importance (FOCI). These species and habitats may be more sensitive to pressures and hence need targeted protection. Focusing on FOCI will point us towards areas where urgent action is needed to prevent further damage.


Together, broad-scale habitats and FOCI are referred to in the Ecological Network Guidance (ENG) as MCZ features. The list of MCZ features (see list below) is not finite –an MCZ can be designated for any marine species or habitat where there is a strong case for protecting them, such as a species and habitats of local or regional interest.


In addition to the broad-scale habitats and FOCI, the Marine and Coastal Access Act allows for MCZs to be designated for features of geological and geomorphological interest. The ENG lists the coastal Geological Conservation Review sites and geological and geomorphological features of interest to be considered as features for designation within MCZs.


To cover the full range of biodiversity in our seas, each regional MCZ project area needs to protect examples, where they occur, of:

  • 23 broad-scale habitats;
  • 22 habitats of conservation importance – habitat FOCI;
  • 32 species of conservation importance – species FOCI.