Nature Conservation Strategies

Natura 2000 - An Effective Tool to Combat Habitat Loss?

1030: Introduction
1045: Breakout - SWOT/PEST list ideal components of a conservation management strategy
1115: Time Out
1130: Feedback and Discussion

1200: Dramatis Personae of SAC Management
1215: Break
1245: Bio-Diversity Duty and Duty of Care 1

1300: Working Lunch - Film
1330: Bio-Diversity Duty 2

1400: Break
1415: SSSI Designation
The Saga of the Scallop
1530: End - optional walk to an urban beach

The session will be supported by this website and a short paper written by Rory on the Natural Environment and Rural Communites Act 2006 (Nerc06).

Since the Convention on Biological Diversity was signed in 1992, much nature conservation work has focused on the establishment of protected areas. In the UK, we have a variety of nature designations which attempt to limit anthropocentric activity whether temporally or spatially. These can be both wide-ranging and confusing - see here for general information and here with regard to wind farms.

We will focus on one area - the Fal Helford Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

SAC designation is within an European context known as Natura 2000.

According to the European Union Commission:

European society, our immense cultural diversity and our economies are reflected in our landscapes, agriculture and natural spaces. We are stewards of a wonderful natural legacy that we can pass on hopefully in tact to future generations. Over the last 25 years together we have built up a vast network of over 26,000 protected areas covering all the Member States and a total area of around 850.000 km2, representing more than 20% of total EU territory. This vast array of sites, known as the Natura 2000 network - the largest coherent network of protected areas in the world, is a testament to the importance that EU citizens attach to biodiversity.

Natura 2000 is the centrepiece of EU nature & biodiversity policy. It is an EU wide network of nature protection areas established under the 1992
Habitats Directive. The aim of the network is to assure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats. It is comprised of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) designated by Member States under the Habitats Directive, and also incorporates Special Protection Areas (SPAs) which they designate under the 1979 Birds Directive. Natura 2000 is not a system of strict nature reserves where all human activities are excluded. Whereas the network will certainly include nature reserves most of the land is likely to continue to be privately owned and the emphasis will be on ensuring that future management is sustainable, both ecologically and economically.The establishment of this network of protected areas also fulfils a Community obligation under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

We must therefore ask: Does Natura 2000 deliver its key objective of ensuring the long term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats?

Firstly, let's make sure that we understand SAC's - consult this FAQ from Natural England (pring six copies)

Secondly, what would we expect a management system for a protected area to include? (Break group into sub-groups)
  • Clearly identified legal obligations on stakeholders
  • A transparent mangement structure
  • Local accountability
  • Executive officer with appropriate equipment/resources
  • Clearly identified monitoring strategy
  • Regular stakeholders meetings
  • Enforcement strategy

Thirdly, what is it exactly that we are protecting? DEFRA has clear guidance on this with lists of species and habitats here.

It is important to understand the context: we could be discussing wildlife crime, or we could be addressing conservation law - or we could actually be dealing with the far less sexy planning law.

The Falmouth scallop saga illustrates the issues: see Defra Doc here and an illustrative PPT from the MCS (see here for similar non-PPT data). This can be read in conjunction with a PPT on MPA's generally from the MCS.


Habitats Regulations - the law
Natural England - Wildlife Management and SSSI's
Useful summary from CIWEM on Biodiversity legislation
Arne Naess Obituary
Law and the Envronment - UKELA source
Devon and Cornwall Police summary of Wildlife Crime 2009
Defra document on environmental enforcement 2009 and excellent source here
Private Prosecutions and environmental law - excellent source from Clyde and Co and here

The business case for bio-diversity: 48 page report
Guidance for local authorities 181 page report - print Appendix 5
Guide to managing a SAC
Appropriate Assesment of Plans 2006 from sustainability consultants

Video Lounge: Shell Drilling in Ireland
Pembrokeshire SAC


3d map

Hand Out

Nature Conservation – Legal Obligations

Rory MacPhee LlB PGCE MIfL



This paper is written for students at Cornwall College to support a seminar on Friday 13th November at Falmouth Marine School. Additional support with a wide variety of links has been published on the internet at .

The following questions will be addressed:

· What does bio-diversity mean?
· What are the legal instruments currently in place to protect habitats and species?
· What duties do public authorities have for conserving marine, coastal and estuarine bio-diversity?

The Meaning of Bio-Diversity

It has been stated (Spicer 2009) that there are over ninety definitions of bio-diversity in circulation. One definition which should be given credence is contained in the CBD Convention.

“The variability among living organisms from all sources, including, 'inter alia',
terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems".

How many definitions can you find? Perhaps a simple definition suffices: THE VARIABILITY OF LIFE ON EARTH.

The debate is important as we have to be clear about what it is exactly that we are trying to protect and conserve. An adherent to the “Deep Ecology” philosophy propounded by Arne Naess would have a one view on bio-diversity, quite different from that of an executive of Shell Oil. Thus bio-diversity could be said to be a subjective concept.

"We don't say that every living being has the same value as a human, but that it has an intrinsic value which is not quantifiable. It is not equal or unequal. It has a right to live and blossom. I may kill a mosquito if it is on the face of my baby but I will never say I have a higher right to life than a mosquito."

“Nor would Mr van der Veer give me a straight answer to another straight question: “is there any investment you would not make on ethical grounds?”. I asked this six times. He was unable to furnish me with an example. It’s not hard to see why. As well as exploiting the tar sands, which means destroying forest and wetlands, polluting great quantities of water and producing more CO2 than conventional petroleum, Shell is still flaring gas in Nigeria, at great cost to both local people and the global climate.”

Legal Instruments that Protect Bio-Diversity:
The key threats identified in the Convention on Biological Diversity include (CIWEM 009):
Extinction: based on current trends, an estimated 39,200 species, including one in eight of the world’s bird species face extinction. In the UK, populations of water vole (aka Ratty in the book 'Wind in the Willows') have declined by over 70 per cent.
Habitat loss and fragmentation: Approximately 45 per cent of the world’s original forests have been cleared, up to 10 per cent of coral reefs have been destroyed and one third of the remainder are on the verge of collapse. In the UK, over 90 per cent of our once flower-rich meadows have vanished due to agricultural intensification.
Loss of genetic diversity: A loss of habitats also means a loss of the genetic diversity within the species that these habitats support. This genetic diversity is vital - it could provide the next cure for cancer or the gene vital to produce crops which can adapt to a changing climate.
Climate change: Scientists warn that even a one-degree increase in global temperature will push many threatened species over the edge; our food production systems could also be seriously disrupted.
Reduction in adaptability: Ecosystems can to a certain extent self-repair and adapt to natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes. A reduction in biodiversity and the goods and service that this provides, reduces this adaptability. We spend billions on flood prevention downstream, which is hugely exacerbated by forest clearance in upstream catchments. Climate change is expected to make this situation even worse.
The following is a summary of the law (CIWEM 2009):
The Ramsar Convention (1971) The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat was ratified by the UK in 1976. The Convention seeks to promote the conservation and wise use of wetlands, particularly those which support internationally significant numbers of water birds. This is achieved through the designation of Ramsar Sites .
The Birds Directive (1979)The European Community Council Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds (79/409/EEC) sets out general rules for the conservation of all naturally occurring wild birds, their nests, eggs and habitats. It requires Member States to designate Special Protection Areas (SPAs) to protect certain species.
The Habitats Directive (1992)The European Community Council Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats of Wild Fauna and Flora (92/43/EEC) aims to protect the European Union's biodiversity. It requires Member States to designate Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) - sites of European importance for listed habitats and species. SACs must be maintained at, or restored to, favourable conservation status, and should be protected from damaging plans or projects.
Together, SACs and SPAs form a European network of sites called ‘Natura 2000’. The Directive also requires Member States to provide strict protection for specified flora and fauna outside designated sites (i.e. ‘European Protected Species’).
Other key conventions and polices:The World Summit on Sustainable Development Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. EU Sustainability Strategy European Plant Conservation Strategy (EPCS) Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBLDS)
National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949Enabled the then Nature Conservancy (now Natural England) to designate Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and National Nature Reserves (NNRs), and local authorities to designate Local Nature Reserves (LNRs).
Countryside Act 1968Imposed a duty on local authorities and other public bodies to have regard to the desirability of conserving the "natural beauty and amenity" of the countryside - including wildlife - in the exercise of their functions relating to land.
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981Provided varying degrees of protection for listed species of flora and fauna, including comprehensive protection of wild birds and their nests and eggs. Also introduced the designation of Marine Nature Reserves . It revised the system for designating SSSIs and gave further powers for their protection and the introduction of management agreements.
Protection of Badgers Act 1992Consolidated previous badger legislation by providing comprehensive protection for badgers and their setts. Setts can now be disturbed or destroyed only under licence.
Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994 Formally transpose the Habitats Directive into UK law, building on existing legislation to protect habitats and species by introducing requirements for assessing plans and projects affecting European designations and licensing certain activities affecting European Protected Species.
Hedgerows Regulations 1997Protect important hedgerows in the countryside. It is illegal to remove most countryside hedges without first notifying the local planning authority.
Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999Require (by implementing a European Directive) an Environmental Impact Assessment to be carried out, before planning permission is granted, for certain types of major project which are judged likely to have significant environmental effects.
Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (in Scotland, the Nature Conservation Act (Scotland) 2004)Strengthens the protection given to SSSIs. It revises procedures for notifying SSSIs and for consenting operations which may damage them. Local authorities have a new duty to take steps, consistent with the proper exercise of their functions, to further the conservation and enhancement of SSSIs.
The Act also strengthens the existing provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 for the enforcement of wildlife legislation, including a new offence of "recklessly" destroying or damaging the habitats of certain protected species. For the first time this also places a duty on government to ‘have regard’ to the conservation of biological diversity.
The Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000The most substantial piece of EC water legislation to date sets a goal for all inland and coastal waters to reach "good ecological status" by 2015. It establishes a river basin district structure within which demanding environmental objectives will be set, including ecological targets for surface waters.
The Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006Creates Natural England to act as a champion for the natural environment and establishes the Commission for Rural Communities as a national rural advisory body – see below.
Biodiversity Action PlansBiodiversity policy took a huge leap forward in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit when 'The Convention on Biological Diversity' was signed. It aims to protect the earth's variety of plant and animal species and their habitats. It requires countries to produce national action plans for the conservation of biodiversity. It entered into force on 29 December 1993 and it was the first treaty to provide a legal framework for biodiversity conservation. It called for the creation and enforcement of national strategies and action plans to conserve, protect and enhance biological diversity.
UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP)In 1994 in response to the Convention of Biological Diversity the UK government launched the UK Biodiversity Action Plan for dealing with biodiversity conservation. This process has moved forward at the national.
Planning Policy Statement 9: Biodiversity and Geological Conservation. August 2005.Planning Policy Statements (PPS) set out the Government’s national policies on different aspects of planning in England. PPS9 sets out planning policies on protection of biodiversity and geological conservation through the planning system

Duties on Public Authorities with Particular Reference to Marine Wildlife in SW England:


· SW England has 1,020km of coastline, 31% of all of England.
· Territorial waters amount to 41,000 km2, 3 times the land area
· There are 20 coastal and marine protected sites
· 8000 species inhabit the region
· 90% of UK’s rias in the SW
· 37% of UK’s saline lagoons in the SW
· 40 million people visit the SW annually – worth £3.5 billion to GDP
· The SW supports 42% of English fishing activity giving 9000 jobs
· Recreational angling supports 3000 jobs
· The SW coast path contributes £300m to the local economy

The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act of 2006 (NERC06) imposes a bio-diversity duty on local authorities. To give an example of how this applies to Wildlife Crime, the following is an extract from Wildlife Crime and Illegal Hunting” composed by the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary in

“The force has a team of Wildlife Crime Officers locate throughout the Force Area. This is to ensure that if fulfils its obligations under NERC06. The Act requires that the Police as a public body in exercising their functions must have regards to the purpose of conserving bio-diversity.” (subject to paraphrase).

The importance of NERC06 is that previously only Government and Ministers had a bio-diversity duty – now it is all Public Authorities.

What does this duty entail? For public authorities it means that bio-diversity has to be prioritised – and this does not just mean protection of species and habitats. Restoration, enhancement, compensation – all these must be considered.

The actual wording of NERC06 states in Section 40:

“Every public authority must in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving bio-diversity.”

Case law will define what is meant by “having regard”.

The rationale in so far as the marine environment is concerned is clear: marine bio-diversity is under threat from climate change and anthropocentric activity and said to be declining (BioDiversity SouthWest 2008). The consequences are;

· Impact on society and economy
· Change in natural wealth
· Reduced resilience and resistance to change
· Declining water quality
· Reduced fisheries potential
· Loss of recreational opportunities
· Decreased employment
· Reduced carbon uptake
· Decline in charismatic species
· Species shift

NERC06 is important because it is about bio-diversity as a whole, not just particular species and habitats – a key feature of SAC management.

The best advice to public bodies would be to include the bio-diversity duty on pro-forma agendas.


Defra: Guidance for Local Authorities on Implementing the Bio Diversity Duty 2007