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Staffordshire :: Site Designations
Nature Conservation Sites
There is no completely natural habitat left in Staffordshire as it has all been influenced to some extent by human activity. Most habitats have been heavily modified through the creation of agriculturally improved grassland, arable fields and conifer plantations. These habitats support only a limited range of plant and animal species and therefore have a low biodiversity.
The habitats which often support greatest biodiversity are those which have been affected the least by recent human activity such as ancient and semi-natural woodlands and traditionally managed grasslands.
Much of the remaining semi-natural habitat in Staffordshire occurs within designated wildlife sites, which are described below.
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are the finest sites for wildlife and natural features, supporting many characteristic, rare and endangered species, habitats and natural features. The purpose of SSSIs is to safeguard for present and future generations a series of sites that are individually of high natural heritage importance. They make a vital contribution to the ecological processes upon which we all depend.
The SSSIs cover approximately 8% of England, and alone they cannot fulfil national biodiversity and geological targets. Many SSSIs are small and isolated, and have to be managed as an integral part of the surrounding landscape. Conservation action is required throughout England if wildlife and natural features are to flourish and enrich our lives. Supportive land use and sustainable development policies, and active conservation management, are vital to the well-being of SSSIs.
Within the area covered by the Staffordshire Biodiversity Action Plan there are 57 SSSIs of which eight are notified purely for their geological features. The biological SSSIs cover some 3900 ha, 1.5% of the county.
Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)
Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are sites of European importance designated under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 that implement the Habitats Directive. All sites designated under this European legislation are already SSSIs and in the Biodiversity Action Plan area include Cannock Chase, Cannock Extension Canal, Chartley Moss, Mottey Meadows, Pasturefields Salt Marsh and the River Mease.
Ramsar Sites are designated under the terms of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.  Again, all sites are also SSSIs and include Aqualate Mere, Betley Mere, Black Firs & Cranberry Bog, Chartley Moss and Cop Mere. There are three National Nature Reserves within the Plan area, all being managed by English Nature.  A further eight SSSIs are partly or wholly managed by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust as nature reserves.
Sites of Biological Importance (SBIs)
These are sites of local importance and contain most of the best remaining areas of semi-natural habitat in the county.
These are sites selected as the result of a series of county biological and habitat surveys, carried out mainly between 1979 and 1984 and resurveys between 1995 and 2000. The surveys and resurveys were designed to identify and evaluate the best remaining areas of semi-natural vegetation within Staffordshire, together with as much information as possible about their associated fauna. Selection was carried out on similar criteria to those employed by Natural England for the selection of SSSIs, only applied less rigorously, and on a county rather than a regional or national basis.
This exercise has resulted in the recognition of a series of county SBIs, ranked into two categories of value, namely Grade 1 and Grade 2. Information on all these sites is held by the County Council, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and the Potteries Museum, Stoke-on-Trent, and these bodies co-operate in servicing, monitoring and updating the record system as far as possible, within the available resources. It must also be noted that Stoke-on-Trent City Council has its own wildlife site system. These are referred to as Natural Heritage Sites and are equivalent to Grade 1 SBIs. This designation has been set up primarily to reflect the City Council's recent unitary status.
Natural Heritage Sites and sites with a higher designation, such as SSSIs, are considered to represent 'good examples' of the various habitat types.