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Nature Conservation

The Solent coastline is of great conservation importance, containing habitats and/or species that are rare or threatened.

The coastline includes internationally, nationally and locally designated sites, which have been protected to conserve a wide variety of habitats, such as estuaries, saltmarshes, mudflats, cheniers, sand and shingle beaches, barrier beaches, saline and brackish lagoons, grazing marsh.

Other designations aim to conserve geology, landscape, amenity and other purposes, and it is common for several designations to overlap.

Within the North Solent SMP area are the following nature conservation designations:

Types of Nature Conservation Designation



Level of Importance

Ramsar Site

Wetland site recognised for its international importance for nature conservation especially as Waterfowl Habitat. Designated under 'The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance".


Special Protection Area (SPA)

Internationally important area for birds. Designated under 'Council directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds'.


Special Area of Conservation (SAC)

Site designated under 'Council Directive 92/43/EEC', more commonly called the 'Habitats Directive'. The sites are selected to conserve natural habitats and wild flora and fauna of European importance. The aim is to sustain European biodiversity.


Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

An area of recognised scientific value in terms of its flora, fauna, geology or physiographical features.


National Nature Reserve (NNR)

Area of natural interest designated under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act.


Local Nature Reserve (LNR)

Area of natural interest. Designated under the Countryside Act.


Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI)

County designation, usually designated because of wildlife value. No attached statutory protection.


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