Protected sites are areas of land, inland water and the sea that have special legal protection to conserve important habitats and species in England. These include our Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Ramsar sites. These area designations have been included as they focus on the protection of biodiversity and provide legal mechanisms for this protection. This indicator currently has 2 components: (a) extent of protected sites on land, freshwater and at sea and (b) condition of terrestrial SSSIs on land and water. Condition for terrestrial sites is assessed against relevant common standards agreed by the UK conservation agencies. Condition methodology for marine sites is currently under development.
Readiness and links to data
This indicator is not available for publishing in 2023 in a finalised form. An interim indicator is presented here that shows the condition of SSSIs in England (D2b). Data for this interim indicator are published annually as England Biodiversity Indicator 1 – Extent and condition of protected areas. Work is underway to review reporting for terrestrial and freshwater sites. Further work is required to implement a methodology for assessing the condition of marine sites.
Notes on indicator
Natural England and Defra have identified a methodological issue with the data for the extent of protected sites contained in the England Biodiversity Indicator 1, which may have resulted in some overestimation. It is unlikely to have affected the overall trend. We are working together to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Part a of this indicator (Extent of protected sites in England) has been temporarily removed until this work is concluded.
Figure D2b: Condition of Sites of Special Scientific Interest in England, 2003 to 2022
Table D2b: Condition of Sites of Special Scientific Interest in England, 2003 to 2022
|Year||Favourable condition||Unfavourable recovering condition|
Trend description for D2b
There has been a net decrease in the area of SSSIs in favourable condition; down from 44.0% in 2003 to 38.2% in 2022. While there has been a small increase in the area in favourable condition over the last 10 years (from 37.2% in 2012 to 38.2% in 2022), the figure has fallen slightly in the latest years. The area of SSSIs in unfavourable recovering condition has increased substantially from 13.0% in 2003 to 50.8% in 2022.
Assessment of change
There has been little or no change in the percentage of SSSIs in England achieving favourable condition over the short and medium-term assessment periods, while there has been a decrease (deterioration) over the long-term period.
Change since 2018 has also been assessed. There has been little or no change in the percentage of SSSIs in England achieving favourable condition since 2018.
Further information on this assessment, along with details on the methodology, is provided in the Assessment background page. Summaries by 25 Year Environment Plan goal and information on indicator links are presented in the Assessment results pages.
Table D2b: Assessment of change
|Component||Subcomponent||Period||Date range||Percentage change||Smoothing function||Assessment of change|
|D2b||Favourable condition||Short term||2017 to 2022||-1.22||Unsmoothed||Little or no change|
|D2b||Favourable condition||Medium term||2012 to 2022||2.68||Unsmoothed||Little or no change|
|D2b||Favourable condition||Long term||2003 to 2022||-13.04||Unsmoothed||Deterioration|
Note that percentage change in Table D2b refers to the difference seen between the first and last years in the specified date range. Assessment results presented here differ from those presented in the source publication (the England Biodiversity Indicators) because we use unsmoothed data and assess sites in favourable condition whereas the England Biodiversity Indicators use a 3-year average for the baseline (effectively smoothing the data) and assess sites in favourable and unfavourable recovering condition.