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A legal and ecological perspective of ‘site integrity’ to inform policy development and management of special areas of conservation in Europe
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by S Rees, E Sheehan, Emma Jackson, S Gall, S Cousens, JL Solandt, M Boyer, M Attrill
The European Union Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) provides for the designation and management of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and requires that impacting activities are subject to ‘an appropriate assessment’ of their implications for the ‘integrity’ of the site. We define the term ‘site integrity’ from a legal and an ecological perspective. We demonstrate that ‘site integrity’ is the maintenance of ecological processes and functions that support the wider delivery of ecosystem services. ‘Site integrity’ can be influenced by SAC management. Management that seeks to support ‘site integrity’ may include the use of buffer zones or connecting areas that extend beyond the SAC site’s designated features. We conclude that ‘site integrity’ and ‘favourable conservation status’ are powerful legal terms that if fully transposed into the law and policy of Member States can enable the achievement of broader European and International goals for marine conservation.