Condition of features on sites

Of this total of 12,937 features, 56% were assessed as being in one or other of the 'favourable' condition categories; 43% in one or other of the 'unfavourable' condition categories; with the remaining 1% assessed as being either partially or wholly destroyed (Figure 2).  Those assessing feature condition had less confidence in distinguishing features in unfavourable-declining condition than in the unfavourable-recovering condition.  Because of this, the unfavourable-declining category has not been used in this first report, but has been combined with the unfavourable-no-change category and expressed as a combined 'unfavourable' category.  All of the graphs below are based on numbers of assessments rather than areas of habitats, and include data up to the end of March 2005.  Detailed information is presented in the report for 44 reporting categories, split across species, habitats and geological feature types.

Figure 2. Condition of all features combined

Figure 2, Condition of all features combined
Of those features assessed as being in 'unfavourable' condition, 16% are in the unfavourable-recovering category; features in this category are expected to achieve favourable condition if sympathetic management is sustained.  Features in the other 'unfavourable' categories will require additional measures to be taken if they are to achieve favourable condition in the future.  Where a feature has been wholly destroyed the loss of the feature is considered irrecoverable; this is the case also for that part of a partially destroyed feature which is destroyed.



Figure 3. Condition of features ny site type

A/SSSI condition of features SAC, condition of features
Ramsar, Condition of features SPA, Condition of features
If the favourable percentages of the different designation types are compared across all features they vary substantially (Figure 3).  Ramsar and SPA features are 86% and 78% favourable respectively.  ASSI/SSSI features are 57% favourable as opposed to SAC features which are only 37% favourable.  The favourable state of Ramsar and SPA features is a reflection of the favourable condition of bird features in general (circa 77%).
As can be seen in Table 2, across designated sites as a whole, geological features are the most favourable (86%), followed by species (68%).  Terrestrial habitats seem to be faring poorly with only 39% of assessments favourable.  Marine and coastal habitats (60%) and freshwater habitats (49%) have fared somewhat better.  There are a large number of features which are recovering from unfavourable condition.  If these are combined with those which are favourable, terrestrial habitats are more on a par with marine habitats and species.
It is also possible to split some of the terrestrial habitat reporting categories into upland and lowland features (Figure 4).  This indicates that upland features are more favourable (44%) than lowland (35%).  However, more assessments fell in the unfavourable-recovering category in the lowlands (32%) than in the uplands (19%).  The picture becomes quite complex if individual habitats are considered.  If the unfavourable-recovering and favourable assessments are combined, the situation reverses, with the uplands (63%) in a slightly worse condition than the lowlands (66%).  It may be that the lowlands are more amenable to management than the uplands. 

Figure 4. Condition of upland and lowland habitats

Upland, Condition of upland habitats
Condition of lowland habitats
The results of the condition assessment are given in Table 3, which is ordered, under broad feature category headings, according to the percentage achieving favourable condition. Shaded rows indicate those categories which are above the average percentage in favourable condition for all features combined. Note that Table 3 does not include Ramsar features.
The species assessments show considerable variability.  Only four reptile assessments have been reported and it would not be sensible to place too much reliance on the high rank of this category.  However, birds features are faring well, with between 73% and 81% in favourable condition.  Mammals, invertebrate and plant features form an intermediate group between 52% and 68% in favourable condition, while, at the other end of the scale, fish (27%) have a worryingly low proportion of favourable assessments.
The condition of habitat features was also very variable.  Upland assemblages, rocky shores and sea cliffs fell in the range 70%-87% in favourable condition, while an intermediate group of habitats, including a number of coastal habitats, blanket bog and woodland habitats, fell in the range 43%-69% in favourable condition.  Below that were a group of habitats which fared relatively poorly, including upland and lowland heathlands and grasslands, lowland raised bogs, and rivers and streams, with lowland heathlands achieving the worst result at just under 18%.  No assessments are available yet for estuaries, or for large shallow inlets and bays.  This general pattern of results was reflected also in CCW's rapid-assessment results with intertidal and other coastal habitats faring relatively well, broadleaved woodlands in an intermediate category, and with neutral grasslands performing less well; lowland raised bogs scored worst in this assessment.
Geological features fared well with all reporting categories assessed as being between 83%-95% in favourable condition.  A small number of features have been reported as partially or completely destroyed.  The minerals category stands out as more susceptible to destruction, and this is partly a consequence of the localised nature of the features.  In each of the cases where this is reported, it is the result of removal of the mineral specimens or mineral-bearing rock, such that the feature is no longer present at the site. 
Many of the features which are in best condition are ones which are less easily damaged by human activities; this may be because they are relatively robust (e.g. geological features), or because they are relatively difficult to access (e.g. cliffs).  The features which are least favourable are often being impacted by factors which operate outside the sites on which they are designated (e.g. drainage conditions for some isolated wetlands, fires on heaths adjacent to housing developments), or which require concerted effort by many agencies (e.g. water quality affecting fish).