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SSSI, SAC, SPA & Ramsar, What's it all about?
The Nature Conservation Interest of the Sefton Coast and the Ribble Estuary.Article by Janette Easton, English Nature
The Sefton Coast is one of the most designated sites in the UK. It is designated as a SSSI, cSAC, SPA and Ramsar site, but what does this actually mean and why have they been designated.
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
The SSSI designation indicates that the site is of national importance in its own right for biological and geomorphological interests; and is a key site representing main habitat types in Great Britain.
Ribble Estuary SSSI
The estuary is important for passage and wintering waterfowl. It is a major link in the chain of estuaries down the west coast of Britain which are used by birds on migration, moving between the breeding grounds in the far north and their wintering grounds further south. The salt marsh and unimproved grazing marsh support important breeding bird communities. The grazing marsh also forms an important high tide roost for waterfowl.
Sefton Coast SSSI
Populations of wintering waterfowl and waders make use of the foreshore areas whilst other species of note including the sand lizard Lacerta agilis, natterjack toad Bufo calamita and great-crested newt Triturus cristatus, all found within the dunes. These species are considered to be of community interest and are therefore given strict protection, along with the populations of the sandhill rustic moth Luperina nickerlii gueneei, a Red Data Book species.
The collection of plants along the coast is exceptional, particular noteworthy species include the nationally rare grey hair grass Corynephorus canescens, nationally scarce liverwort Petalophyllum ralfsii and nationally rare moss Bryum neodamense.
Active processes known as coastal geomorphology are occurring on the coast, these processes are special features too. They mainly relate to the large mobile dune system and the many sand bars that are found on the beach. By protecting these dynamic processes and allowing them to function naturally will help to secure a healthy environment in the future.
European and other international designations
Ribble and Alt Estuaries Special Protection Area (SPA)
The areas of salt marsh provide important feeding habitat for pink-footed geese, teal, wigeon and pintail. Roost sites for waders and some wildfowl are also found on areas of sandflat, at various locations along the length of the coast.
European marine site
Ribble and Alt Estuaries Ramsar site
Sefton Coast candidate Special Area of Conservation (cSAC)
i) fixed dunes with herbaceous vegetation (grey dunes)
This European designation covers animals, plants and habitats and provides them with increased protection and management.
Hopefully this has provided a brief insight into the policy behind nature conservation designations on the Sefton Coast.
The UK Government have set a Public Service Agreement (PSA) target for 95% of SSSIs to be in favourable or recovering condition by 2010. In October 2003 English Nature will be launching a report on the condition of SSSIs in England. Both the Sefton Coast and Ribble Estuary have been assessed against set criteria, the full results will be published later this year in the Coastlines winter edition and will also be available on the English Nature website.