Special Environmental Sites and Schemes

8. Ramsar Sites and Special Protection Areas (SPA)

The UK Government signed the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat (the Ramsar convention) in 1973. The definition of wetland includes areas of marsh, fen, peatland, or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water up to a depth of six metres. The designation may also include adjacent areas of land, coasts, riverbanks and islands. In the UK there are about 180 designated Ramsar sites.

The Government is bound by the EU Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds (1979) to designate Special Protection Areas to conserve the habitat of certain rare or vulnerable birds. All designated SPAs and Ramsar Sites are NNRs / SSSIs and many qualify for both Ramsar and SPA designations. Management of these designations is the responsibility of English Nature.

English Nature has worked with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee to identify sites but it is the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions that is responsible for designation.

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