Around 60 per cent of surveyed species and habitats on protected nature sites in Wales are in an unfavourable condition, a major review has found. 

Natural Resources Wales (NRW), the Welsh Government’s environmental body, also said it didn't hold enough evidence about the condition of the nature at around half of the country’s protected sites. 

The organisation has published the results of an audit it carried out of the information it holds on all types of wildlife – from tiny invertebrates to fish and creatures such as otters – across the country. Where the review has identified any shortfalls, such as fewer pairs of breeding animals, the conditions at those nature sites have been marked as 'unfavourable'. 

NRW now says it needs to develop new approaches to collecting evidence and monitoring sites with most of the information it already holds related to Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA), which have the highest level of European designated protection. 

At present there isn’t a structured programme for monitoring Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). 

There are 88 SAC sites in Wales and just 11 Special Protection Areas but there are 1,071 SSSI with little information about the condition of nature on the sites available. 

Results of NRW’s Protected Sites Baseline Evaluation review are available to view on the agency's website. 


The body says it wants to work with site owners, that range from the Welsh Government and local authorities to charities and private individuals, to understand the the health of species and habitats and better target support. 

It wants to boost monitoring of sites to increase the amount and quality of information it holds. 

Ruth Jenkins, NRW’s head of natural resource management said: “Many of these sites are owned and managed by individuals who will require a range of support from NRW and others. As such, developing a monitoring programme for our protected sites that is fit for the future will also require the knowledge and experience of our stakeholders.  

“Given the scale of the challenge before us, and as part of our endeavour to tackle the climate and nature emergencies, we want to join forces with our partners to turn our ambition to improve our monitoring programmes and our evidence base into action and support the delivery of effective site interventions in the future.”   

Projects NRW is already working on include a restoration of sand dunes at sites across Wales and a trial to restore oysters in the Milford Haven estuary. 

Working with marine scientists and aquaculture experts, including a local oyster farming businesses, NRW has introduced juvenile oysters and clean shell material in a series of trials over several historic oyster grounds. 

Native oysters filter and clean water and provide essential habitats for fish, crustaceans and other species. They lock away carbon, and filter particles and nutrients from the water, and play a vital role towards offsetting the effects of climate change.