Introduction to the guidance manual

2. The need for monitoring


One of the key responsibilities of the statutory nature conservation agencies in the UK is the identification and protection of a series of sites intended to conserve important wildlife and Earth science features. Such sites may be designated under
  • National legislation (Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in Britain and Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs) in Northern Ireland),
  • European Directives (Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs)), or
  • An international Convention (Ramsar sites).


Once sites have been designated, the country agencies work with owners/occupiers and others to protect and enhance their special features, for example by agreeing management plans and advising on development proposals.
Site-based conservation is a corner-stone of biodiversity and earth science conservation in the UK, and a substantial proportion of the agencies' resources is devoted to the selection, management and protection of statutory sites. Clearly, mechanisms are needed to assess how successful these activities have been in achieving nature conservation objectives, both on individual sites and across the site series as a whole. For example, on any particular site it is important to evaluate whether management measures have achieved the desired objectives, or whether new measures need to be put in place. At a broader level, assessment is required of the effectiveness of legislative and policy measures in contributing to biodiversity conservation on protected sites. Monitoring can provide the information necessary to undertake these assessments.