Monitoring the condition of lowland grassland SSSIs. Part 1 - English nature's rapid assessment method.
English Nature and the other statutory conservation agencies in the UK are monitoring designated sites, including SSSIs, according to an agreed framework of common standards. The aim of the monitoring is to assess whether the nature conservation interest features of these sites are in favourable condition. Attributes of a particular interest feature are used to define favourable condition and targets for each attribute specify the thresholds beyond which change is of concern. English Nature is developing rapid assessment techniques to monitor condition of over 4,000 SSSIs in England, to be supported by detailed monitoring of a small proportion of sites. A rapid assessment method has been developed for monitoring the condition of lowland grassland SSSIs in England. The project involved English Nature Local and National Team staff and also colleagues from the Countryside Council for Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Environment and Heritage Service (Northern Ireland) and other organisations. The project has produced assessment protocols for all the lowland grassland interest feature types represented in SSSIs and candidate SACs. This report summarizes the rationale behind the method, describes practical ways of making rapid assessments and incorporates field forms for all lowland grassland SSSI and SAC interest feature types.