Protected sites baseline assessment 2020

Biodiversity and ecosystem resilience have a vital role in the sustainable management of natural resources.

In Wales, protected sites and their management are integral to the health of such ecosystems. These depend on appropriately targeted interventions for their continued ability to provide ecosystem services including biodiversity.

Monitoring key species and habitats on protected sites helps us correctly plan, manage and target our work as efficiently as possible.


We established the 2020 Baseline Evaluation project to assess the quality of the protected sites evidence base to help understand, where possible, the relative ‘health’ of the key species and habitats across the range of freshwater and terrestrial features on protected sites in Wales.

We focussed mainly on monitoring features currently considered to be qualifying on Wales’ protected sites.

Types of terrestrial and freshwater features in scope for monitoring:

  • flora – i.e. plants
  • fauna – i.e. animals
  • geology – i.e. rocks
  • geomorphology – i.e. landforms
  • a mixture of these natural features

It is the first time that an exercise to determine the condition of Wales’ protected site features has been undertaken at this scale since 2003.

Main findings and next steps

The evidence on each feature was reviewed and, if possible, given an indicative condition assessment category. This was to inform both our management approaches to features in poor condition and our approach to evidence collection under a new more comprehensive terrestrial monitoring strategy.

The results show that NRW currently has insufficient evidence to determine the condition of around half of the features on these sites (condition classed as unknown).

We have concluded that of those features where we now have an assessment:

  • an estimated 20% are favourable
  • around 30% are in unfavourable condition
  • around 50% are not in a desired state

These findings provide us with an important baseline to inform our approach to management and monitoring across the wider suite of protected sites (SACs, SPAs and SSSIs).

The review of condition of Wales' protected natural features fuels calls for partnership approach to a nature-rich future.

Next steps

NRW is seeking to work in partnership with the environmental sector, landowners and communities in Wales to help shape and deliver an innovative action plan designed to improve current approaches to monitoring the health of protected sites in the future.

The knowledge and expertise provided through this partnership, coupled with the outcomes of this review, will inform the development of a more comprehensive terrestrial monitoring strategy for the future. This will enable us to address the evidence and site intervention challenges we face as part of our commitment to securing resilient biodiversity in Wales. 

A freshwater review will also be initiated to plan the future monitoring of freshwater sites.

Protected sites baseline assessment dashboard

The dashboard below has 5 pages you can navigate using the bottom tabs.

The information can be filtered by operational area, domain, habitat/species and designation type.

Alternative/text only version

Download data as CSV file

Contact us

To raise an issue or request clarification about the data, please email

Terms of use

  • NRW is not liable for any errors or omissions in the Information and shall not be liable for any loss, injury or damage of any kind caused by its use. NRW does not guarantee the continued supply of the information. It is your responsibility to ensure the information is fit for the intended purpose.
  • The data are derived from a synthesis and review of evidence relating either directly or indirectly to the condition of qualifying terrestrial, freshwater and earth science features on statutory protected sites in Wales. The list of features considered is based on an initial review by NRW specialists given changes to the selection criteria for SSSIs and excludes species and habitats best linked to the marine environment. The feature list should not be considered definitive.
  • The assessments are a result of a combination of evidence reviews and expert opinion and so reflect the views at the time of assessment based on the available evidence and assessors view of the feature. As a result, additional information or clarification around existing evidence may result in future updates to the indicative assessment or its confidence rating.
  • Features for which an assessment was possible do not represent a statistically valid sample of the entire range of features. Given the extent of ‘unknown’ assessments, any summary statistics should include data showing the extent of unknown assessments alongside figures on the proportion of features considered to be in favourable or unfavourable condition.
  • Site specific applications of the data should give regard to the confidence assessment linked to the individual result balancing this against the potential costs/risk (capital and environmental) from applying an incorrect assessment.
  • It will normally be appropriate to use the full range of assessments across all confidence levels in presenting summary statistics at an area or national level, although even in these cases, data on the relative balance of high, medium and low confidence assessments should be retained.
  • The term ‘destroyed’ describes features which are no longer considered to merit designation status and where it is not considered possible to restore them within a reasonable time period. It does not necessarily imply that the feature has been lost as consequence of deliberate adverse actions. All assessments where the feature is classified as destroyed should be considered to be provisional and should be reviewed before being considered final.
  • The classification of a feature as unknown does not imply an absence of evidence but that there was insufficient evidence to draw a conclusion at the time of assessment.
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