These are prime wildlife conservation areas in the country, considered to be important on a European as well as Irish level. Most Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are in the countryside, although a few sites reach into town or city landscapes, such as Dublin Bay and Cork Harbour. Conservation management plans are available for many SACs and as additional ones are approved they will be posted.
The legal basis on which SACs are selected and designated is the EU Habitats Directive, transposed into Irish law by the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 477 of 2011), as amended.
The Directive lists certain habitats and species that must be protected within SACs. Irish habitats include raised bogs, blanket bogs, turloughs, sand dunes, machair (flat sandy plains on the north and west coasts), heaths, lakes, rivers, woodlands, estuaries and sea inlets. The 25 Irish species which must be afforded protection include Salmon, Otter, Freshwater Pearl Mussel, Bottlenose Dolphin and Killarney Fern.
The areas chosen as SAC in Ireland cover an area of approximately 13,500 sq. km. Roughly 53% is land, the remainder being marine or large lakes. Across the EU, over 12,600 sites have been identified and proposed, covering 420,000 sq. km of land and sea, an area the size of Germany.
NPWS is changing the way we share information about protected sites. The site specific information on the NPWS website for Natura 2000 sites i.e. SAC and SPA sites, is currently under review.
If you require up-to-date information about a Natura 2000 site, please link to the Statutory Instrument on our website, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Data included in the Standard Data Forms (SDFs) for each Natura 2000 site can be accessed on the European Commission website.
View and download Protected Sites spatial data through the NPWS Protected Sites map-viewer.