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Protected Areas

Designating special areas for protection is an effective way of ensuring our wildlife and natural landscapes retain their individual characteristics. It is a cornerstone of our strategy for conserving biodiversity in Northern Ireland.
Some areas are deemed of such importance that they are formally designated under various pieces of national and international legislation.
These sites should represent the best examples of natural and semi-natural ecosystems as well as the range of earth science features, and are protected and managed in order to conserve their special features.
A complete list of international and national nature conservation and landscape protection designations is available on the Joint Nature Conservation CommitteeOpens in New window (JNCC) website.

  • pictureof Breen Wood ASSI

    Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) These have been identified as being Northern Ireland’s very best wildlife and geological sites

  • picture of Sheep Island SPA

    Natura 2000 sites Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) Special Protection Areas (SPAs) Natura 2000 is the name of the European Union-wide network of nature conservation sites established under the EC Habitats and Birds Directives. This network will comprise Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs).

  • picture of Killard nature reserve

    Nature Reserves An area of importance for flora, fauna, or features of geological or other special interest, which are reserved and managed for conservation and to provide special opportunities for study or research.

  • picture of Lough Neagh/ Lough Beg RAMSAR

    Ramsar Sites These are wetlands of international importance designated under the Ramsar Convention

  • picture of Slieve Donard in Mournes AONB

    Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Areas designated to protect and enhance their distinctive landscapes and scenic beauty and to promote their enjoyment by the public

  • picture of rock formations at the Giants Causeway

    World Heritage Site (WHS) Designated for their globally important cultural or natural interest and require appropriate management and protection measures. Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast is NI’s only WHS.