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Internationally important numbers
A wetland is considered to be internationally important if it regularly holds at least 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of waterbird.

Nationally important numbers
A wetland in Britain is considered to be nationally important if it regularly holds 1% or more of the estimated British population of one species or subspecies of waterbird.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Areas notified under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 for their "special interest by reason of any of its flora, fauna, or geological or physiographical features". They are the main statuary national conservation designation to protect sites of nature conservation importance. These sites have recently been given greater protection under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.


The international Ramsar convention gives a government commitment to promoting the conservation of important wetlands. For more details see the
Ramsar Web site.

Special Protection Area (SPA)
The EU Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) was adopted in April 1979 to protect all wild birds and their habitats, and to designate SPAs to protect rare or vulnerable species and all migratory birds.

Natura 2000
SPAs and SACs (special areas of conservation) together form a network of areas termed Natura 2000 designated to conserve natural habitats and rare, endangered or vulnerable wildlife species.


Sensitive Marine Area (SMA)
These are marine areas that are of national importance and notable for their marine mammal and plant communities or which provide ecological support to adjacent statutory sites.

Sites of Biological Importance (SBIs)
These have no statutory protection, but are listed on the Unitary Development Plan, and are therefore taken into account in the planning process.

Sites of Local importance to Earth Science
These have a similar level of protection to SBIs

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