Introduction to the guidance manual
11. Setting Targets
For each interest feature, favourable condition will be defined by setting broad targets for each attribute. As a general guide, favourable condition will reflect the state of an interest feature at the time of its selection but with the proviso that the ecological or other processes supporting the feature should be such as to enable it to maintain its condition over time. In practice, the site condition at the time of selection may not be known, or be inappropriate, in which case the guidance provided in this manual, adjusted to meet the particular circumstances of the site as determined by best judgement, can be used to determine favourable condition.
Targets should be set to ensure that habitats and species populations are maintained in a condition which is likely to be sustained over the foreseeable future, in line with the principles of favourable conservation status (see section 5.2). For example, a wetland feature that requires a certain water level regime to maintain it, will not be considered as being in favourable condition if the water level requirements are not being met, irrespective of whether the plant and/or animal community targets were met at the time of monitoring. This is because it is entirely foreseeable that these attributes will not be maintained over time. In this example, the target for the water regime will be set at the level to be reached to maintain the wetland feature (i.e. possibly different from what it was at the date of site selection).
However, targets should not (for common standards monitoring purposes) be set at levels which seek to achieve substantial improvements to the feature beyond that needed to maintain its biological or earth science interest at the time of selection. In certain exceptional circumstances, where the feature was selected with the specific view to improving it to a better state (e.g. degraded raised bogs), the biological targets for favourable condition can be set significantly higher than was their condition at the time of selection. This is, however, an exceptional circumstance and not to be applied generally.
Targets for species and habitat features must reflect ecological variation and, where relevant, local distinctiveness; in many cases they will be determined by site-specific factors (see section 16). However, guidance on setting appropriate target values has been provided wherever possible, e.g. by specifying a range of values within which site-specific targets should lie.
For geological sites that are being preserved, a target of no reduction in quality or quantity of the features of interest is generally applicable. Targets set for any particular interest feature may also need to take into account the conservation objectives of other features on the site (see sections 8 and 16).