Acronyms Explained

There are many acronyms for Conservation Terms and here we explain a few of the more common ones.

AONB – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

A designation arising from the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949, where selected areas were designated for their beauty and unique qualities – the only difference between AONBs and National Parks (NPs) is that AONBs do not have a recreational remit, nor planning powers.


See above

SEMS – Solent European Marine Site

Designated by the British Government on the advice of English Nature as a complex of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA) under the Habitats Directive SPA – Special Protection Area designated under the Birds Directive (79/409) as being of particular importance for the protection of wild birds.

SAC – Special Area of Conservation

Areas designated under the Habitats Directive as having unique nature conservation qualities and species. These areas enjoy comprehensive protection from damage as the Directive requires that there is no net loss of value whatever development takes place. In practice any development has to have mitigation to ensure no net loss or be in the overriding public interest and then be compensated.

RAMSAR (not technically an acronym)

An international Convention signed by the UK at Ramsar in Iran to designated and protect wetland areas of particular value to waders and wildfowl – In practice all RAMSAR sites are also contained within SACs.

LNR – Local Nature Reserve

These are areas of local value designated by Local Authorities on the advice of Natural England – the designation has a statutory role in land use planning.

NNR – National Nature Reserves

Areas of the highest nature conservation value, largely managed by Natural England SINC & SNCI (these are the same but different counties use different acronyms) Sites Important for Nature Conservation – Sites of Nature Conservation Importance – Areas designated by local authorities as they have some conservation value but the designation is advisory and carries no statutory responsibilities.

MEHRA – Marine Environmental High Risk Area

An area mainly designed for the regulation of large ships carrying hazardous cargoes. The need for these was identified by Lord Donaldson after his review of the Braer accident.

MCZ – Marine Conservation Zone

Newly defined in the Marine Bill.