A European Site is one of two types of statutory nature conservation designation. The first is a Special Protection Area (SPA). SPAs are designated under the 1979 EC Birds Directive and protect rare, threatened or vulnerable birds that are listed in Annex I of the Directive. In addition to the birds, SPAs also habitats that are important to the birds.
The second designation is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). SACs are designated under the 1992 EC Habitats Directive and protect habitats and species listed in Annex I (habitats) and Annex II (species) of the Directive. Mobile species, such as grey seal, are protected even when they are beyond the boundary of the SAC.
SPAs and SACs are known collectively as European Sites. They are designated on land, at the coast and out to 200 nautical miles within European member states. The entire suite of SPAs and SACs across Europe is known as the Natura 2000 Network.
European Marine Sites
The term European Marine Site (EMS) is not a statutory designation. It is simply a UK management term used to describe parts of a SPA or SAC that include marine habitats or species. EMS can range from entirely subtidal to exclusively intertidal, or a combination of both. EMS can be made up from a single SPA or SAC, parts of a SAC or SPA (where these sites also include terrestrial areas), or might include multiple SPAs or SACs grouped together under a single EMS banner for the purposes of management.