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    Ramsar sites are classified to meet the UK's commitments under the Ramsar Convention. The UK's ratification also extends to its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. These sites comprise of globally important wetland areas and may extend into the marine environment.

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    LNRs are established in a variety of locations with very varied habitats and species. They must lie wholly within the area of jurisdiction of the local authority which declares them to be reserves. Prior to such declaration, the local authority must own or lease the site or obtain an agreement from the owner. LNRs are generally smaller than NNRs and closer to centres of population. They are frequently provided for the enjoyment and education of local people whose involvement in site management is encouraged.

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    Marine Consultation Areas are identified by Scottish Natural Heritage as deserving particular distinction in respect of the quality and sensitivity of the marine environment within them. Their selection encourages coastal communities and management bodies to be aware of marine conservation issues in the area.

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    The National Nature Reserve (NNR) Partnership awards the NNR accolade to the best places for people to see the best of Scotland’s nature. SNH formally declares the Partnership’s recommended places under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

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    The European Diploma is an award established by the Council of Europe under Regulation (65) 6 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe of 6 March 1965 for certain landscapes, reserves and protected national features, and Resolution (73) 4 of 19 January 1973 on the Regulations for the European Diploma (amended and revised by Resolution (88) 39 of 5 December 1988, (89) 12 of 19 June 1989 and (91) 16 of 17 June 1989). By awarding the European Diploma, the Council of Europe recognises that the area is of particular European interest for natural-heritage and that the area is properly protected. The Diploma can be awarded to national parks, nature reserves or natural areas, sites or features. The award is for a five-year period. Annual reports are required for each area, and the renewal of the award at 5 years is only made after independent assessment of the site. The Diploma can be withdrawn at any time if the area comes under threat or suffers serious damage.

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    Biosphere Reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems promoting the conservation of biodiversity with sustainable use. Biosphere reserves serve to demonstrate integrated management of land, water and biodiversity.

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    SPAs in Scotland are classified by Scottish Ministers . These are areas of the most important habitat for rare (listed on Annex I to the Directive) and regularly occurring migratory birds within the European Union. SPAs are classified under the EC Birds Directive and together with SACs, form the Natura 2000 network. Proposed Special Protection Areas (pSPA) may be subject to change prior to classification. Note: Orkney Inshore Waters is at draft SPA status and is not afforded policy protection. Please contact SNH for further information

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    SACs in Scotland are designated by Scottish Ministers under the EC Habitats Directive. They are areas which have been identified as best representing the range and variety within the European Union of habitats and (non-bird) species listed on Annexes I and II to the Directive. SACs in terrestrial areas and marine areas out to 12 nautical miles are afforded protection through the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended). Possible Special Areas of Conservation (pSAC) may be subject to change prior to submission.

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    Biogenetic reserves act as 'living laboratories' and are representative examples of various types of natural environment in Europe. They can consist of natural or semi-natural habitats and their selection is based on their value for nature conservation and protected status based on four criteria: 'typical', 'unique', 'rare' and/or 'endangered' which can be applied to habitats or species. The protected status must be adequate to ensure the conservation or management of the sites in the long term in accordance with fixed objectives.

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    This interactive map service contains the various categories of protected areas and sites in Scotland.