Protected Areas

A protected area is defined as:

“A clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values”.

Source: Dudley, N. (Editor) (2008). Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. x + 86pp.


The first key point of this definition is that the primary objective of a protected area is conservation of nature. The second key point is that the protection is “effective”. That will generally mean that the area is protected by an Act of Parliament or in the case of privately owned or indigenous land by a covenant or conservation agreement.


Creating Protected Areas in the UK is an important part of the delivery of our requirement to conserve and enhance habitats, earth science features and species. The UK has many different types of Protected Area; some are established solely for nature conservation while others, like National Parks, serve a range purposes including nature, landscape and amenity values.


Within the UK, Protected Areas fall into a number of categories:


  • Protected areas established under National Legislation. This includes Sites of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserves.
  • Protected areas established as a result of European Union Directives or other European initiatives. They include the Natura 2000 network.
  • Protected areas set up under Global Agreements. They include Ramsar sites.
  • Marine Protected Areas.


The categories can overlap. For example Marine Protected Areas include National and internationial designations. It is possible for an area of land (or sea) to fit into all four of the above categories.


JNCC’s role includes:


  • We are the official source of information on all Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas designated within UK territory and officially submitted to the EU Commission. This site provides information on the location and boundaries of these protected areas and the features that are important on one. The two types of designation together form the Natura 2000 network. For terrestrial and inshore sites, the designating authority is the relevant country agency.
  • JNCC has a vital role in establishing, managing and monitoring offshore MPAs (beyond the 12 mile limit). This includes work on  offshore SPAs and offshore SACs as well as new Marine Conservation Zones and Scottish MPAs.
  • We co-ordinate site submissions of Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention for the UK, Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.
  • We have an important role in co-ordinating the different marine protected area programmes across the four countries of the UK.
  • We act as a focal point for the collation of lists of national designations via the European Environment Agencies Common Database on Designated Areas.
  • We help the country agencies assess the condition of protected areas by co-ordinating surveillance schemes (for example, for butterflies).
  • We co-ordinate reporting exercises to assess the condition of certain types of protected areas (for example, Common Standards Monitoring for Designated Sites: First Six Year Report 2006), and integrating information on the state of Protected Areas into assessments, such as the Article 17 Report on the Habitats Directive.
  • We advise on Protected Area Management Effectiveness.
  • We work with Defra and the country agencies to see that the requirements for managing and sharing Protected Area spatial information are complied with.

Return to Graphics version

| JNCC - Adviser to Government on Nature Conservation | Site Map | Search | Legal | Feedback | List Access Keys |