Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are strictly protected sites designated under the EC Habitats Directive. The Directive requires the establishment of a European network of important conservation sites that make a significant contribution to conserving the 189 habitat types and 788 species identified in Annexes 1 and 2 of the Directive. The listed habitat types and species are those which are considered to be most in need of conservation at a larger European level. The UK network of SAC’s is made up of 614 sites covering a total area of over 2,630,000 ha. SAC’s complement Special protection areas and together form a network of protected sites across the EU called “Natura 2000”.
Compared with other designations SAC’s tend to be large, often covering a number of separate but related sites, and sometimes including areas of developed land and unlike many other designations, SAC’s can stretch beyond the low tide mark into the marine environment. In fact, some are almost all completely found within the marine environment.
Sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) were generated under the wildlife and countryside act 1981 which states that the government has a duty to notify as an SSSI any land which in its opinion is of special interest by reason of any of its flora, fauna, geological or physiographical features it may have. SSSI’s in the UK are designated by Natural England however, the SSSI is not necessarily owned by a conservation organisation or by the Government, they can be owned by anybody. The designation is primarily to identify those areas worthy of preservation. The recent Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 has strengthened the law and given greater power to the designating body of a SSSI to enter into management agreements, refuse consent for damaging operations and to take action where damage is being caused through neglect or inappropriate management. Local Authorities and other public institutions now also have a statutory duty to further the conservation and enhancement of SSSI’s.
For a summary of SAC designation and selection click here
For a list of SAC’s in the UK click here
For more information on SSSI’s click here