Guidelines for selection of biological SSSIs
Rationale, Operational approach and criteria, Detail guidelines for habitats and species groups
The guidelines are currently under revision

Guidelines for selection of biological SSSIs





The statutory nature conservation agencies have a duty under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended, to notify any area of land which in their opinion is 'of special interest by reason of any of its flora, fauna, or geological or physiographical features'. Such areas are known as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). The notification is made to owners and occupiers, local planning authorities and the Secretary of State, who may make representations or objections to the nature conservation agencies regarding the notification. Any representation or objection made must be considered by the nature conservation agencies before a decision is made by them to confirm the notification.
The selection of sites of biological interest in Great Britain is supported by the Guidelines for the Selection of Biological SSSIs. These set out general principles, supplemented by detailed selection guidelines for different habitat types and species groups, which the statutory nature conservation agencies use to reach judgements regarding special scientific interest.
The guidelines for the Selection of Geological and Physiographical SSSIs are published separately by JNCC. In Northern Ireland the designation Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs) is the equivalent of the SSSIs. There are supported by the guidelines for the Selection of Biological ASSIs as published by NIEA. 

Revision of GB Guidelines

In 1989, the Nature Conservancy Council published 'Guidelines for the selection of biological SSSIs'. A number of additional or revised chapters were subsequently published by JNCC on behalf of the country agencies. In 2011 a process was started to update these guidelines to take account of changes in governance, legislation, wider approaches to nature conservation, and advances in knowledge of habitats, species and more general environmental and ecological issues. 
As a result, the former Parts A and B of the Guidelines were revised and merged into a single section - Part 1: Rationale, Operational Approach and Criteria for Site Selection - as published in 2013. In addition, some changes were made to the individual Part 2 habitat and species chapters to reflect organisational changes and minor technical issues.
A more comprehensive revision of all of the Part 2 chapters is currently underway. This is expected to result in a rolling programme of revised chapter publication during 2014-2017. The table below shows the state of publication and progress with this programme.
Publication and progress with the current revision of the SSSI Selection Guidelines
Section Status of revised chapters

Part 1: Rationale, etc.


Rationale, Operational Approach and Criteria for Site Selection (PDF, 768 kb)


Revision complete - published December 2013

Part 2: Detailed Guidelines for Habitats & Species



Chapter 1 Coastal and Marine habitats  (PDF, 213 kb) *


Revision underway

Chapter 2 Woodlands   (PDF, 213 kb) *


Revision underway

Chapter 3 Lowland grasslands (PDF 345 kb)


Revision complete - published November 2014

Chapter 4 Lowland heathland (PDF, 102 kb) *


Revision underway

Chapter 5 Non-montane rock habitats (PDF, 101 kb) *


Revision plan under consideration

Chapter 6 Freshwater habitats  (PDF, 205 kb) *


Revision underway

Chapter 7 Fens  (PDF, 220 kb) *


Revision plan under consideration

Chapter 8 Bogs  (PDF, 265 kb) *


Revision underway

Chapter 9 Upland habitats  (PDF, 570 kb) *


Revision plan under consideration

Chapter 10 Artificial habitats (PDF, 61 kb) *


Revision plan under consideration

Chapter 11 Vascular plants (flowering plants, ferns and their allies) (PDF, 175 kb) *


Revision underway

Chapter 12 Non-vascular plants (PDF, 97 kb) *

Tables 1 & 2


Revision plan under consideration

Chapter 13 Mammals  (PDF, 129 kb) *


Revision underway

Chapter 14 Birds (PDF, 301 kb)


Revision complete - published June 2015

Chapter 15 Reptiles and amphibians  (PDF, 60 kb) *


Revision underway

Chapter 16 Freshwater and estuarine fish (PDF, 75 kb) *


Revision underway

Chapter 17 Invertebrates (PDF, 139 kb) *


Revision underway

Chapter 18 Fungi (PDF, 73 kb) *


Revision plan under consideration
* link to unrevised version of chapter
[table updated 1 April 2015]

NEW CHAPTERS (provisional plans shown for unpublished chapters)

Part 1: Rationale, etc.
Habitat Chapters
No Name
1 Coastal and marine habitats
2 Woodlands
3 Chapter 3 Lowland grasslands (PDF 345 kb)
4 Lowland heathland
5 Non-montane rock habitats
6 Freshwater habitats
7 Fens
8 Bogs
9 Upland habitats
10 Artificial habitats
Species Chapters
No Name
11 Vascular plants
12 Bryophytes
13 Lichens and lichenicolous fungi
14 Fungi (non-lichenised)
15 Algae
16 Mammals
17 Chapter 17 Birds (PDF 223 kb)
18 Reptiles and amphibians
19 Freshwater and estuarine fish
20 Invertebrates 
Please cite as: JNCC, Guidelines for selection of biological SSSIs