Reviews of the UK SPA network


There have been three reviews of the UK SPA network undertaken at roughly decadal intervals. 


First SPA ReviewFirst Review – 1980s

The first was undertaken by the Nature Conservancy Council and published in 1990.  This established the scope of the network in Great Britain and stimulated the progressive classification of these sites.  Species and habitat details from the sites listed in the first review were published in 1992. 


A complementary All-Ireland SPA review was commissioned from JNCC by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Dublin and the Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland), Belfast and published in 1993. 


Stroud et al. 2001Second Review – 1990s

JNCC and country agencies were requested by government to undertake a further review of the network in the mid-1990s.  This second review - based on data from the 1990s - revised our understanding of the UK SPA network, both in terms of the number of sites selected and the species that qualify within these sites.  As a result of the second review the legal documents for many classified SPAs in the UK network now require amending to incorporate changes to qualifying species; this process is taking some time to complete.


At completion of the second SPA Review, government consulted widely with other stakeholders on the results.  In response to this consultation the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) convened an advisory group to take forward further consideration of SPA network development; the UK SPA & Ramsar (Avian) Scientific Working Group (SPAR SWG).


Third Review – 2000s

Third SPA cover A third review – based on data from the 2000s – was undertaken by the SPAR SWG and published by JNCC in 2016.  This assessed change since the 1990s and provided advice to government with respect to a range of issues related to the future development of the network.  In particular, and given the rapidity of climate-related changes in bird distribution that are occurring, it recommended that further reviews be undertaken – at approximately decadal intervals – such that appropriate adaptation measures can be undertaken.


The three SPA reviews have focused largely on terrestrial SPAs, but recognised the need for a review of implementation of the Birds Directive in the UK's marine environment.  This is now well underway and more information is available elsewhere on this website in Marine Protected Areas.  However, future updates to the information presented here will also include marine SPAs (as do the statistics in the third review).