Areas of nature conservation importance in the United Kingdom are protected under various pieces of national and international legislation.
Natura 2000 is the name of the European Union wide network of nature conservation sites. The network was established under Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and Wild Fauna and Flora (the ‘Habitats Directive). This network comprises of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs).
The Welsh Government has indicated that in planning terms sites designated under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, agreed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971, are to be treated the same as Natura 2000 sites. Originally intended to protect sites of importance especially as waterfowl habitat, the Convention has broadened its scope over the years to cover all aspects of wetland conservation and wise use, recognising wetlands as ecosystems that are extremely important for biodiversity conservation in general and for the well-being of human communities.
In 2014 there were 7 Ramsar sites in Wales (covering 11,366 ha). Of these, 3 are located within Snowdonia totalling 882.5 ha.
Designated areas in hectares
Ramsar: 882.5 ha
Terrestrial SAC: 56,665.5 ha
SPA: 24,301.5 ha
SSSI: 62,446.2 ha
NNR: 5,654.07 ha
Land Managed in Line with Conservation Objectives
126,303.87 ha of land in the National Park is managed in line with conservation objectives
Source: Snowdonia National Park Authority, 2008
SACs are areas which have been identified as best representing the range and variety of European habitats and species (other than birds) listed in Annexes I and II to the Directive. SPAs are areas designated under the Birds Directive as the most important habitats for rare (listed on Annex I to the Directive) and migratory birds within the European Union. Both SACs and SPAs can extend into territorial waters. At July 2013 there were 85 Special Areas of Conservation wholly in Wales (covering 590,864 ha). Of these, 5 are located within Snowdonia totalling 56,665.5ha.
Above: Map of SACs within Snowdonia National Park
Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are strictly protected sites classified in accordance with Article 4 of the EC Directive on the conservation of wild birds, also known as the Birds Directive, which came into force in April 1979. They are classified for rare and vulnerable birds, listed in Annex I to the Birds Directive, and for regularly occurring migratory species.
In 2013 there were 17 classified Special Protection Areas wholly within Wales (covering 123,058 ha). Of these, 4 are located within Snowdonia totalling 24,301.5ha.
Above: Map of SPAs within Snowdonia National Park
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) have, since 1949, been evolved into a suite of sites providing statutory protection for the best examples of the UK’s flora, fauna, or geological or physiographical features. These sites are also used to underpin other national and international nature conservation designations. Originally notified under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, SSSIs have been re-notified under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Improved provisions for the protection and management of SSSIs were introduced by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (in England and Wales).
In 2014 there were 1,019 such Sites of Special Scientific Interest in Wales, covering over 235,000 ha or just over 12% of the country’s land surface. Of these, 107 are located in Snowdonia totalling 62,446.2ha.
Above: Map of SSSI within Snowdonia National Park
National Nature Reserves (NNR)
National Nature Reserves (NNRs) contain examples of some of the most important natural and semi-natural terrestrial and coastal ecosystems in Great Britain. They are managed to conserve their habitats or to provide special opportunities for scientific study of the habitats communities and species represented within them.
NNRs are declared by the statutory country conservation agencies under and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. All the above designations are found in the National Park.
In 2007, there were 68 National Nature Reserves in Wales, of which 21 are located in Snowdonia totalling 5,654.07ha.
Above: Map of NNRs within Snowdonia National Park