Designated areas

England’s natural environment is unique and makes a major contribution to national and regional character. Our geology, soils, landscapes and their biodiversity along with our marine and coastal ecosystems are a rich inheritance.

A complete listing of international and national nature conservation and landscape designations is available on the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) website.

National Nature Reserves (NNR) - 222 reserves covering over 92,000 hectares these are some of the very finest sites in England for wildlife and geology, and provide great opportunities for people to experience nature. Almost all NNRs have some form of access provision. Many are fully open throughout the year as we want people to enjoy these wonderful places.

Local Nature Reserves (LNR) - Over 1,280 reserves (July 2006) for both people and wildlife. They are living green spaces in towns, cities, villages and countryside which are important to people, and support a rich and vibrant variety of wildlife. They are places which have wildlife or geology of special local interest. All LNRs are owned or controlled by local authorities and some are also Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) - Over 4,000 SSSIs in England covering around 7% of the land area, these are the country's best wildlife and geological sites.

National Parks - With 8 National Parks in England plus the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, which has equivalent status, these nine areas account for 8% of England's land area. They are extensive areas of land, each with their own managing authority to conserve and enhance their natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage and to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of their special qualities.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) - 36 areas covering about 15% of England, they have been described as the jewels of the English landscape.

Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) - Areas given special protection under the European Union's Habitats Directive. They provide increased protection to a variety of wild animals, plants and habitats and are a vital part of global efforts to conserve the world's biodiversity.

Special Protection Areas (SPA) - Areas given protection under Article 4 of the EC Directive on the conservation of wild birds (79/409/EEC), also known as the Birds Directive, which came into force in April 1979. They are classified for rare and vulnerable birds, listed in Annex I to the Birds Directive, and for regularly occurring migratory species.

Ramsar sites - These are wetlands of international importance designated under the Ramsar Convention.

Heritage Coasts - 33% (1,057km) of scenic English coastline, these special coastlines are managed so that their natural beauty is conserved and, where appropriate, accessibility for visitors improved.

Marine Protected Areas (MPA) - Areas of sea designated for the protection of biodiversity or natural and cultural resources. Natural England's remit extends offshore out to 12 nautical miles from the coast and within this marine area we have a target to 'establish a coherent network of marine protected areas by 2012'. Our current MPAs are mainly designated as Special Areas of Conservation or Special Protection Areas (and termed European marine sites). There is one Marine Nature Reserve at Lundy and several subtidal SSSIs.