Types of protected areas of land and sea
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)
SSSIs are the most important sites for Wales’ natural heritage. They are highly protected to safeguard the range, quality and variety of habitats, species and geological features in all parts of Wales. They are the cornerstones of conservation work, protecting the core of our natural heritage.
There are more than 1,000 SSSIs in Wales, covering about 12% of the country’s surface area.
Learn more about responsibilities of SSSI owners and occupiers.
Sites protected by European and international law
These include Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protected Areas, and Ramsar sites.
Marine Protected Areas
Marine Protected Areas are areas of sea, seabed or shore protected under other laws such as Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas, Marine Conservation Zones and Ramsar Sites.
Read more about Marine Protected Areas.
National Nature Reserves
These are the finest examples of our wildlife habitats and geological feature.
Read more about National Nature Reserves.
National Parks are large areas designated by law to protect their special landscape qualities and promote outdoor recreation. National Parks have their own authorities which control planning.
Read more about National Parks on the Welsh Local Government Association website.
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
Protected by law because of their special landscape qualities, wildlife, geology and geography, AONB have more protection than other areas under the planning process. In terms of landscape and scenery, they are equal to National Parks.
Find out more about AONBs on the DataMapWales website.
Stretches of outstanding, unspoilt coastline, usually cared for by local authorities which account for nearly half of Wales’ coastline.
Find out more about heritage coasts on the DataMapWales website.
Find protected areas of land and seas
To check if land is designated a SSSI use DataMapWales or DEFRA's magic map system.
To see documents for a SSSI, such as its reason for designation and location, use the designated sites search.
How we manage protected sites
We have a legal duty to look after the Welsh landscape by:
- Advising Welsh Government on which areas should be designated and protected
- Awarding partnership funding to projects that will improve the landscape and bring environmental benefits for people, the economy and wildlife
- Advising planners on developments that may affect the landscape and wildlife of protected sites