SPA
Special Protection Area

T

he EC Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds (79/409/EEC) requires member states to safeguard the habitats of migratory birds and certain particularly threatened birds.Egret Under the Directive, the UK is committed to taking "the requisite measures to preserve, maintain and re-establish a sufficient diversity and areas of habitat" for "all species of naturally occurring birds in the wild state". This includes the designation of SPAs.

This is designed to protect wild birds, and to provide sufficient diversity of habitats for all species so as to maintain populations at an ecologically sound level. It lists birds of special conservation concern requiring special conservation measures, and includes selection of areas most suitable for them to be designated Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Furthermore it lists birds for which hunting and sale and other activities are allowed, but otherwise affords a strong degree of protection to all birds ("reverse listing" formula). Legal implementation is by three mechanisms. The European Commission can investigate complaints of breach of the Directive. This Directive had much influence on the Wildlife and Countryside Act and many of its requirements are included in that legislation. SPAs, or, more precisely, the birds within SPAs, have a limited amount of stronger protection than SSSIs, as provided by the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations, 1994. Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) share this protection. SPAs and SACs together form a network of protected sites across the EU called "Natura 2000".

There are 87 proposed or designated SPAs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. All SPA are also SSSIs or ASSIs. There are no known plans to create SPAs for other groups of species, but SACs effectively provide this in a slightly different form.