Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are strictly protected sites designated under the EC Habitats Directive. Article 3 of the Habitats Directive requires the establishment of a European network of important high-quality conservation 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 considered to be most in need of conservation at a European level (excluding birds). Of the Annex I habitat types, 78 are believed to occur in the UK. Of the Annex II species, 43 are native to, and normally resident in, the UK.
Details of the process of SAC selection and designation are available on JNCC's SAC selection pages.  Also provided is a full list of sites within the UK or each country within the UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales), with links to site descriptions including details of qualifying features for designated SACs, SCIs or candidate SACs, and summary information for possible SACs. Downloadable data available includes a summary spreadsheet, GIS boundary data and copies of site documentation for designated sites.

UK SAC/SCI sites summary

Special Areas of Conservation/Sites of Community Importance in the UK as at 26 March 2019


There are a total 658 designated SACs, SCIs or cSACs in the United Kingdom (excluding Gibraltar).
  Special Area of
Sites of
SACs (cSACs)3
All submitted
and cSAC)
Country No. No. No. No. Area ha
England 242     242 1,068,558
England / Scotland 3     3 112,770
England / Wales 7     7 95,182
England / Offshore 3     3 3,795,179
England / Wales / Offshore 1     1 584,989
Northern Ireland 57     57 85,871
Northern Ireland / Offshore 1     1 160,367
Scotland 238 1   239 2,288,674
Scotland / Offshore 2     2 182,232
Wales 85     85 590,915
Wales / Offshore 2     2 1,062,562
UK Offshore Waters 14 1 1 16 4,712,596
UK TOTAL 655 2 1 658 13,485,177
Gibraltar 2       5,687
(Site area figures have been calculated using GIS and rounded to the nearest whole hectare. Please note that site area figures for each country relate to both the terrestrial and inshore domain).

Explanation of site status:

  1. Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are sites that have been adopted by the European Commission and formally designated by the government of each country in whose territory the site lies.
  2. Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) are sites that have been adopted by the European Commission but not yet formally designated by the government of each country.
  3. Candidate SACs (cSACs) are sites that have been submitted to the European Commission, but not yet formally adopted.
Where an extension to a designated SAC or SCI is pending, different parts of the site can have different statuses - so, for example part of the site may be SAC, and the remainder cSAC. In this case the site would only appear once in the table, with the whole site shown as SAC.

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