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Condition Assessments

Under the Habitats Directive, relevant for SACs and SCIs, the United Kingdom is obliged to report on the Favourable Conservation Status of Annex I and Annex II features every 6 years. There are similar reporting requirements under the Birds Directive, relevant for SPAs. Under the Marine and Coastal Access Act there is also a need to assess the achievement of conservation objectives for MCZs. Alongside national reporting requirements the ability to provide a current view of feature condition within protected sites is crucial to underpin advice on site management and casework.

In 2013, Natural England began revising the method for how marine condition assessments were conducted. The project aimed to build and improve on Common Standards Monitoring, utilising best available evidence to measure condition status against targets and thresholds. This underpins its advice to provide clear, accessible results for partners and stakeholders and help inform the management measures required for designated features.

The Solent Maritime SAC is one of the first sites for which a condition assessment is being undertaken. The assessment for the feature Saline Lagoons is complete and indicates that they are in favourable condition. However, two key threats have been identified which have the potential to impact their condition and therefore require further monitoring. The first is the presence of invasive non-native species, most notably the amphipod Grandidierella japonica at Yar Bridge Lagoon and the polychaete Desdemona ornata at Newtown Quay Lagoon. The second is the continued decline of the lagoon specialist bivalve Cerastoderma glaucum, the reasons for which are unknown.

The initial assessment of the intertidal, subtidal and Estuary features is complete and awaiting quality assurance. Assessments of the remaining features are ongoing. Details of these features can be found at https://designatedsites.naturalengland.org.uk/.

Through this process, Natural England is identifying evidence gaps and how to fill these. For example, a National Vegetation Classification (NVC) survey will be conducted at the sand dunes at Norton Spit over the summer. Natural England is aiming to complete the condition assessment for Solent Maritime SAC by the end of the 2017 calendar year. The condition assessment will then be continuously updated as new evidence is collected to reflect current condition and to support management decisions.