Greater Wash SPA

 

Status: Special Protection Area (SPA) 

 

 

Map displaying MPA boundary.

 

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The Greater Wash SPA is classified for the protection of red-throated diver (Gavia stellata), common scoter (Melanitta nigra), and little gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus) during the non-breeding season, and for breeding Sandwich tern (Sterna sandvicensis), common tern (Sterna hirundo) and little tern (Sternula albifrons).

 

This site protects important foraging areas for the largest breeding populations of little tern in the UK marine SPA network (798 pairs), and important areas used by the second largest non-breeding populations of red-throated diver (1,407 individuals) and little gull (1,255 individuals) within the UK SPA network. The boundary of the Greater Wash SPA extends beyond 12 nautical miles; hence it is a site for which both Natural England and JNCC have responsibility to provide statutory advice. The SPA lies along the east coast of England in the mid-southern North Sea and extends between the counties of Yorkshire (to the north) and Suffolk (to the south).

 

More detailed site information can be found on the Summary tab below.

 


  

Legislation behind the classification:  EU Birds Directive 2009/147/EC, as transposed into UK law by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 within 12 nautical miles, and the Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 between 12 nautical miles out to 200nm or the UK Continental Shelf.


 

Protected Features:

Features Feature type % of population Conservation Objective1

Red-throated diver

Gavia stellata

(in non-breeding season)

Annex I species 8.3% GB Maintain or Restore

Little gull
Hydrocoloeus minutus

(in non-breeding season)

Annex I species

No current GB population

estimate available

Maintain or Restore

Common scoter
Melanitta nigra

(in non-breeding season)

Regularly occurring

migratory species

0.6% GB Maintain or Restore

Sandwich tern

Sterna sandvicencis

(in breeding season)

Assemblage 35% GB Maintain or Restore

Little tern

Sternula albifrons

(in breeding season)

Annex I species 42% GB Maintain or Restore

Common tern

Sterna hirundo

(in breeding season)

Annex I species 5.1% GB Maintain or Restore

1 Note that the wording is in accordance with the Conservation Objectives , drafted to provide  information during the public consultation. See also the Conservation Advice tab.

 

 
Conservation Objectives:

The overarching conservation objectives for the protected features of this site is to ensure they either remain in, or reach favourable condition. The ability of a designated feature to remain in, or reach favourable condition can be affected by its sensitivity to pressures associated with activities taking place within or in close proximity to a protected site.


Specific information on the conservation objectives relating to this SPA is provided in the Conservation Advice tab.

 


Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and classification of the Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA.

 

 


Relevant documentation

 

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to the Greater Wash SPA  were produced during the selection and classification process and therefore may be out of date. This Site Information Centre is the most up to date source of information for this SPA, and will reflect any additional information gathered since these documents were produced.

 

  • Departmental Brief – a more detailed overview of the SPA, and rationale for the classification of the site.
  • Conservation Objectives – information about feature sensitivity, vulnerability and risk and the Conservation Objectives for the classified features of the site.

Information about the SPA site selection process is available on the JNCC SPA pages.


 



Last updated: April 2018

 

Site overview

 

The Greater Wash SPA lies along the east coast of England, predominantly in the coastal waters of the mid-southern North Sea between the counties of Yorkshire to the north and Suffolk to the south. It covers an area of c. 3,536km2, classified for the protection of red-throated diver (Gavia stellata), common scoter (Melanitta nigra), and little gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus) during the non-breeding season, and for breeding Sandwich tern (Sterna sandvicensis), common tern (Sterna hirundo) and little tern (Sternula albifrons). This area supports the largest breeding populations of little terns within the UK SPA network by protecting important foraging areas, and supports the second largest aggregations of non-breeding red-throated diver and little gull. 

 

The area of the SPA includes a range of marine habitats, including intertidal mudflats and sandflats, subtidal sandbanks and biogenic reef, including Sabellaria reefs and mussel beds. Much of the area is less than 30m water depth, with a deep channel of 90m depth at the Wash approaches. Several sites that have been notified or designated under British or European conservation legislation overlap or adjoin the Greater Wash SPA boundary; these include Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge SAC, The Wash and North Norfolk Coast SAC, and Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC. The boundaries of two Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ); Holderness Inshore MCZ, and Yorkshire coast and Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds MCZ are encompassed with the SPA boundary.

                                                                                 

The population estimates and important usage areas, for non-breeding red-throated diver, common scoter and little gull in the Greater Wash SPA were based on data collected from visual aerial surveys over five winter seasons (2002/03, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07 and 2007/08). These data demonstrate that the Greater Wash SPA regularly supports numbers of red-throated diver that are well in excess of the percentage population threshold (>1% of the GB population of this species) identified under the UK SPA selection guidelines (Stroud et al. 2001). There is no GB population estimate against which to assess the numbers of little gull using the site, however comparison with non-breeding numbers in other areas around the UK indicates this is an important site for little gull in the non-breeding season and thus little gull was added as a feature of the site under stage 1.4 of the SPA selection guidelines. Likewise, considerations under stage 1.4 of the SPA selection guidelines supported common scoter as a feature of this site.  

 

SPA population estimates for the tern species were based on counts within the existing colony SPAs, taken from the national Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP), along with additional information from colony managers and the EU LIFE+ little tern project.

 

To identify the most important foraging areas for the larger tern species, (sandwich tern and common tern), boat-based visual tracking surveys were undertaken between 2009 and 2011. These surveys tracked the foraging trips made by birds from each colony of interest, during the chick rearing period. The resultant information on foraging locations chosen by the birds was combined with information on the habitat characteristics of those locations relative to other areas available, to construct habitat association models of tern usage. Around colonies for which no (or insufficient) data were available, analysis of (species-specific) data pooled across colonies, produced generic models which allowed predicted foraging usage to be determined.

 

To identify the most important foraging areas for little tern two survey methods were employed, shore-based observations and boat based transects, undertaken between 2009 and 2013. These were used to determine the alongshore and seaward extents of important foraging areas. Where colony-specific data were not available, generic distances (derived from the results at other colonies) were applied.


Further detail on the evidence for this SPA can be found on the Evidence tab.

Site location: the boundary of this SPA can be viewed via this map, which includes as well the boundary coordinates.

 

Site area: c. 3,536km2.  

 

Site depth range: Water depth within the site ranges from mean high water to about 90m depth within the Wash approach channel; however, most of the site is in less than 30m water depth.

 

Site boundary description

The Greater Wash SPA boundary was produced as a composite boundary enclosing the extents of the important areas identified for each of the qualifying species. The seaward extent of the boundary is defined by the distribution of red-throated diver, and by the foraging area of Sandwich tern off the north Norfolk Coast. The landward boundary follows Mean High Water. The boundary of this SPA extends into offshore waters beyond 12 nautical miles; hence it is a site for which both Natural England and JNCC have responsibility to provide statutory advice.

Information for this site summary was adapted from documents listed in the relevant documentation section.

 

Last updated: April 2018

 

Site-specific data

The full overview of the data used to support site identification along with information on confidence in the protected features occurrence and abundance is available in pSPA Departmental Brief.

Data for this SPA were collected by the Nature Conservancy Council (NCC) in 1989 and 1991 and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) from 2003 to 2007. NCC surveys were carried out as part of Phase 3 of the NCC Seabirds at Sea project, while WWT surveys were commissioned in response to proposals to develop wind farms in the Greater Wash and in other areas around the UK. The surveys were commissioned by a consortium of private companies, as well as DBERR (Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, formerly Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the COWRIE. Data from these surveys provide direct evidence for the numbers of red-throated diver, common scoter and little gull within the site.

Data on the numbers and distribution of tern species during the chick rearing period were collected by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP), colony managers and the EU LIFE+ little tern project between 2009 to 2014.


 

Survey and data gathering

  • Visual aerial survey (1988/89 – 2006/07).  A series of four strip transect aerial surveys were undertaken in the winter seasons 1988/89, 1989/90, and 1991/1992; and 16 line transect aerial surveys were conducted between the winter seasons 2002/03-2007/08. Further details on the methods and survey coverage are available in JNCC report 574 below.
  • Boat based visual tracking (2009 – 2011).  The population estimates for relevant colonies contributing to Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA were derived from the most recently available numbers (2010-2015) from the Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP) database; and calculated as the sum of the numbers of those species at each of the existing SPAs from which the individuals recorded at sea are most likely to originate
  • Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP) (2009-2014)  The population estimates for breeding sandwich tern, common tern (2010-2014) and little tern (2009-2013) within the Greater Wash SPA were derived from the most recently available numbers from the Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP) database. Colony counts for little tern were supplemented by information from colony managers and the EU LIFE+ little tern project. Population estimates were calculated as the sum of the numbers of those species at each of the existing SPAs from which the individuals recorded at sea are most likely to originate.

  • Little tern boat based survey and shore-based counts (2009-2013)  Between 2009 and 2013 JNCC coordinated a programme of survey work to identify important foraging areas for little terns. Surveys were conducted during the chick rearing period each year and comprised repeated shore-based counts of little tern seen at a series of observation stations at increasing distance from the colony locations, and repeated boat based surveys along transects across the waters around colonies. These surveys sought to establish the distances both alongshore and offshore that little terns were travelling to feed.
  • Larger terns boat-based visual tracking of foraging birds. JNCC coordinated a programme of visual tracking work between 2009 and 2011 to identify important foraging areas at a number of UK colonies. These surveys were conducted during the chick rearing period in each year and comprised repeated days of observations of individual terns whose tracks were followed by boat as they left the colony to forage.

 

Data analysis reports


 


Knowledge gaps

If you are aware of any additional data or relevant scientific papers for this site not listed in the relevant documentation please contact JNCC. 

 

Relevant literature

Please be aware that although these sources contain information which is of interest in relation to this SPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC:

  • O’Brien, S.H., Webb, A., Brewer, M.J., Reid, J.A. 2012. Use of kernel density estimation and maximum curvature to set Marine Protected Area boundaries: Identifying a Special Protection Area for wintering red-throated divers in the UK. Biological Conservation 156, 15-21.
  • Perrow, M.R., Skeate, E.R., Lines, P., Brown, D. & Tomlinson, M.L. (2006). Radio telemetry as a tool for impact assessment of wind farms: the case of Little Terns Sterna albifrons at Scroby Sands, Norfolk, UK. Ibis 148 (Suppl. 1): 57-75

 

Last updated: April 2018

 

Conservation objectives

 

Conservation objectives set out the desired state for the protected feature(s) of an MPA. The conservation objectives for the protected features of the Greater Wash SPA have been set based on knowledge of the condition of the protected features at the time of writing. JNCC and Natural England will publish in due course a joint Conservation Advice for this site as part of a Conservation Advice package. The advice will be published here when it becomes available.

 

This information is useful if you are:

 

  • Preparing Habitats Regulations Assessments (HRAs) of proposed plans or projects that may affect the site;
  • Planning measures to maintain or restore the site and its qualifying features;
  • Monitoring the condition of the qualifying features; or
  • Developing, proposing or assessing an activity, plan or project that may affect the site.

 

Until the full Conservation Advice packages is produced, Conservation Objectives have been made available by Natural England for the Greater Wash SPA.

Advice on operations

 

More detailed information will be presented here when it becomes available.


 

Last updated: April 2018

 

This site forms part of the UKs contribution to the OSPAR commissions network of MPAs , Europe’s Natura 2000 network  and the Emerald network established under the Bern Convention . As the UK is a signatory to the OSPAR commission, JNCC are committed to ensuring that the OSPAR MPA network is ‘well-managed’ by 2020.

 

JNCC consider ‘well-managed’ to mean the timely progress of an MPA around the ‘MPA management cycle’. This involves:

  1. The documentation of appropriate management information - conservation objectives, advice on activities capable of affecting the protected features of a site, and spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected features of a site.
  2. The implementation of management measures - management actions considered necessary to achieve the conservation objectives of a site.
  3. Site condition monitoring programmes – collecting the information necessary to determine progress towards a sites conservation objectives.
  4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives – using available information to infer whether or not a site is moving towards or has achieved its conservation objectives.

 

Further information on the progress of the Greater Wash SPA around each of the four stages in the MPA management cycle will be provided in due course.

More detailed information will be presented here when it becomes available.


 

Last updated: April 2018

 

JNCC is currently leading on the development of options for biodiversity monitoring across all UK waters. JNCC’s advice for marine birds, which will include SPA monitoring, is anticipated to contain:

  • A summary of existing monitoring schemes which provide annual trends in abundance and breeding success of seabirds; and trends in the number of waterbirds using coastal sites to breed, stopover on migration or to over-winter; along with options to improve their precision;
  • Options for monitoring and surveillance of inshore and offshore aggregations of seabirds and waterbirds at sea and how these options can best be integrated with the above existing surveillance schemes (including whether coordinated monitoring of the existing/proposed marine SPA network can contribute to these);
  • Integration with indicator development work for Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

 

Information on monitoring of this SPA will be provided here when it becomes available.

 

Monitoring surveys

 

More detailed information on monitoring surveys in the site will be presented here when it becomes available

 

 

Last updated: April 2018

 

Every six years, Member States are required under Article 12 of the EU Wild Birds Directive (2009/147/EC) to report on their progress on the implementation of the Birds Directive. 

There is no site-level reporting required under Article 12; instead reporting consists of a national-level assessment that covers all regularly occurring wild bird species using an EU level agreed format .

Article 12 reporting consists of the following elements:

  • Population sizes
  • Population trends
  • Breeding distribution size and trend
  • Progress on implementation of action/management plans
  • Overview of the main pressures/threats (for some species only)
  • SPA population coverage and a summary of conservation measures taken
  • Information on Annex II species which are hunted under Article 7.

 

For seabirds, trend information from JNCC’s Seabird Monitoring Programme  has been used – although where this information does not exist other national-level datasets have been used.  For some seabirds however, trend information remains unknown due to monitoring difficulties (e.g. for Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus).

 

The Article 12 report  has a format that is closely aligned to Article 17 reporting under the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), with emphasis placed on the status and trends of bird species. This is providing a wealth of data and information to assess the efficacy not just of the Directive’s implementation, but also wider processes such as the EU’s 2020 Biodiversity Strategy  as well as the Biodiversity Convention’s Aichi (2020) Targets.

 

The UK’s Article 12 report contributes to national data and the information has been used at international scales to produce the following outputs:

 

  • a first IUCN European Red List of birds;
  • a web-portal presenting submitted species data for each Member State;
  • a report from the European Commission to the European Parliament on the State of Nature in the EU;
  • a high level synthesis of the Article 12 and Habitats Directive Article 17 assessments;
  • an extensive technical summary of the Article 12 and Habitats Directive Article 17 data; and
  • a wide range of published academic studies using the data.

 

 

 

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