D2: Extent and condition of protected sites – land, water and sea

Short Description

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.

Indicator components

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
2003 43.98 12.96
2004 45.82 17.04
2005 45.02 22.34
2006 45.26 27.01
2007 44.84 30.60
2008 44.54 38.14
2009 44.02 44.39
2010 43.24 49.84
2011 36.57 60.05
2012 37.24 59.40
2013 37.55 58.56
2014 37.54 58.64
2015 37.50 58.44
2016 38.54 57.21
2017 38.71 56.05
2018 38.75 55.53
2019 38.89 54.66
2020 38.88 54.24
2021 38.36 53.00
2022 38.24 50.81

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.

Indicator Metadata