1.1.2. Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)


Article 3 of the Habitats Directive requires the establishment of a European network of sites that will make a significant contribution to conserving the 189 habitat types and 788 species identified in Annexes I and II of the Directive (as amended). The listed habitat types and species are those meeting the Directive's criteria and thus considered to be most in need of conservation at a European level. A number of the listed habitat types and species are given priority status in the Directive (Article 1d; Article 1h). The Directive requires each Member State to prepare and propose to the European Commission (EC) a national list of sites for each of the features which occurs in their European territory1, for evaluation in order to form a European network of sites of community importance (SCIs). Once adopted as SCIs, the Member States must designate the sites as special areas of conservation (SACs) within six years (Article 4.4). These SACs, together with Special Protection Areas (SPAs) classified under the Birds Directive (79/409/EEC), collectively form the Natura 2000 network (Article 3.1). The selection rationale for SPAs is described in a companion publication to the present report (Stroud et al. 2001).


1 In the case of the UK, 'European territory' comprises both the UK 'mainland' (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and associated sea areas) and the UK Overseas Territory of Gibraltar. The Habitats Directive also applies to the continental shelf and to the superadjacent [sic] waters up to a limit of 200 nautical miles from the baseline from which the territorial sea is measured (see Section 1.6.4). The present report describes the SAC selection process in the mainland UK only, excluding Gibraltar. A summary of the UK's implementation of the Habitats Directive in Gibraltar is included in Defra (2001). Note that the Directive does not apply to Crown Dependencies - the Channel Isles and the Isle of Man, which are not part of the EU.