Habitats and Birds Directives

The 1992 EC Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora) represents a major contribution by the European Community towards their responsibilities under the Biodiversity Convention, which more than 150 countries signed up to at The Rio Earth Summit in 1992.

The Habitats Directive aims to maintain biodiversity by conserving important habitats and species, whilst contributing to the sustainable development of designated sites. The 1979 EC Birds Directive specifically addresses the conservation of wild bird populations and their habitats. The implementation of both the Habitats and Birds Directives is translated into UK legislation by the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994, referred to as the Habitats Regulations.

Natura 2000

The Argyll Marine Special Areas of Conservation are part of the Natura 2000 network. Natura 2000 is the title for the network of areas designated to conserve natural habitats and species of wildlife that are rare, endangered or vulnerable in the European Community. The term Natura 2000 comes from the Habitats Directive; it symbolises the conservation of precious natural resources for the year 2000 and beyond.

The Natura 2000 network includes two types of area:

1) Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) that support rare, endangered or vulnerable natural habitats and species of plants or animals (other than birds)

2) Special Protection Areas (SPAs) that support significant numbers of wild birds and their habitats.

Site Designation

Scottish Natural Heritage were commissioned by the Scottish Executive to identify a range of Natura 2000 sites in Scotland that are good examples of natural habitats and species of wildlife that are rare, endangered or vulnerable. With regard to marine SACs, Scottish Natural Heritage identified possible marine SACs and after consultation with the owners, occupiers and users of these areas the Scottish Executive designated these sites as candidate SACs. These candidate SACs have now been proposed to the European Community for approval and designation as European Marine Sites/SACs is expected in 2004.

Management of Marine SAC Sites

The Habitats Directive has number of major requirements with regards to the management of marine SACs:

  • Management should enable the natural habitat types and the species habitats concerned to be maintained or, where appropriate, restored at a favourable conservation status.
  • Steps must be taken to avoid deterioration or disturbance of the habitats and species for which the site has been designated.
  • Activities, plans or projects likely to have a significant effect upon the features of the site must be subject to an appropriate assessment. A development that would have an adverse effect on the conservation interests of the site should only be permitted if there is no alternative solution and there are imperative reasons of over-riding public interest, including those of a social or economic nature.
  • Monitoring must be undertaken at each site to monitor the condition of the conservation features and to assess the effectiveness of management measures.
  • Management of the site must take into account the economic, social, cultural and recreational needs of the local people.

The Habitats Regulations make provision for the development of a Management Plan for a marine SAC. It is the responsibility of the Argyll Marine SAC Management Forum to develop management strategies for inclusion in the management plan document. Plans are in preparation for both Loch Creran and the Firth of Lorn SACs. Management of the other Argyll Marine SACs may be considered in the future.

To find out more about the Argyll Marine SAC Management Forum please click here