1.1 Introduction

1.1.1 The Habitats Directive


In 1992 the then European Community adopted Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora, known as the Habitats Directive. This is an important piece of supranational wildlife legislation, the principal stimulus for which was the need to provide a Community-wide mechanism to meet obligations under the 1979 Bern Convention and to complement the provisions of the 1979 Birds Directive. The main objectives of the Habitats Directive are:


"...to contribute towards ensuring biodiversity through the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora in the European territory of the Member States to which the Treaty applies" (Article 2.1); and
"...to maintain or restore, at favourable conservation status, natural habitats and species of wild fauna and flora of Community interest" (Article 2.2)
The 24 articles of the Directive specify a range of measures, including conservation of features in the landscape that are important for wildlife, the protection of species listed in the annexes from damage, destruction or over-exploitation, the surveillance of natural habitats and species, and ensuring that introductions of non-native species are not detrimental to naturally occurring habitats and species. The most stringent obligations relate to the selection, designation and protection of a network of sites - special areas of conservation (SACs).

Part 1 of the present publication describes the rationale for site selection - the process and principles used to guide the selection of the network of SACs in the UK. Parts 2 and 3 contain accounts of how these were applied to each of the habitat types and species for which sites have been selected, and give details of qualifying features on the sites selected for designation as SACs in the UK.
Box 1.1: Definition of favourable conservation status (Article 1)
Article 1(e): The conservation status of a natural habitat will be taken as 'favourable' when:
  • its natural range and areas it covers within that range are stable or increasing, and;
  • the specific structure and functions which are necessary for its long-term maintenance exist and are likely to continue to exist for the foreseeable future, and;
  • the conservation status of its typical species is favourable as defined in Article 1(i).
    Article 1(i) The conservation status will be taken as 'favourable' when:
  • population dynamics data on the species concerned indicate that it is maintaining itself on a long-term basis as a viable component of its natural habitats, and;
  • the natural range of the species is neither being reduced nor is likely to be reduced for the foreseeable future, and;
  • there is, and will probably continue to be, a sufficiently large habitat to maintain its populations on a long-term basis.