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Introduction to 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.

Nature Conservation Designated Sites [95kb] (PDF) [95KB]

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

Types of Nature Conservation Designation



Level of Importance

Ramsar Site

Ramsar sites are designated under the International (Ramsar) Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as waterfowl habitat.

In accordance with government guidance Ramsar sites are given the same consideration as European sites under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &C) Regulations 1994 (as amended).


Special Protection Area (SPA)

SPAs are strictly protected sites classified in accordance with Article 4 of the EC Directive on the conservation of wild birds (79/409/EEC), also known as the Birds Directive.


Special Area of Conservation (SAC)

SACs are strictly protected sites designated under the Habitats Directive, Council Directive 92/43/EEC.

Article 3 of the Habitats Directive requires the establishment of a European network of important high-quality conservation sites that will make a significant contribution to conserving the habitats and species identified in Annexes I and II of the Directive (as amended).

SACs are designated and afforded protection in England under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c) Regulations 1994 (as amended).


Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

Notification as a SSSI gives legal protection to the best sites for wildlife and geology in England. They are notified and protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).


National Nature Reserve (NNR)

NNR are places where wildlife comes first. they were established to protect the most important areas of wildlife habitat and geological formations in Britain, and as places for scientific research.

NNR are notified and protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).


Local Nature Reserve (LNR)

LNRs are for both people and wildlife. they are places with wildlife or geological features that are of special interest locally.

LNR is a statutory designation made under Section 21 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 by principal local authorities.


Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI)

Designations applied to the most important non-statutory nature conservation sites.



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