Area designated or managed within a framework of international, Community and Member States' legislation to achieve specific conservation objectives.
According to IUCN and adopted for the INSPIRE context a protected site is: An area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means.
Protected sites may be located in terrestrial, aquatic and/or marine environments, and may be under either public or private ownership. They may include localities with protection targets defined by different sectors and based on different objectives, especially dedicated to the conservation of nature, the protection and maintenance of biological diversity and of natural and where appropriate associated cultural resources. The sites may receive protection due to more than one type of objectives, and may have a double or multifarious designation status. Protected sites differ from environmentally founded classifications of natural or cultural objects and also from area covering designations as included in CDDA, as localisation, boundary and area of protected sites are based on formal, legal or administrative agreements or decisions.
Although all protected sites meet the general purposes contained in this definition, in practise the precise purposes for which protected sites are managed differ greatly. The main purposes of designation are specified in categories of CDDA (4.5.2 National designation type category) and according to the typology developed in the Standard Data Form for Natura2000 under the Habitat Directive, furthermore, categories of IUCN for Protected Sites and other international designation types have to be applied.
A new classification system of protected sites with an overall set of categories under the INSPIRE directive, therefore, has to include Sites of Community Importance (SCI) under the Habitat directive and Special Protection Areas (SPA) under the Birds directive, as well as further designation types on a global level. This definition of protected sites does not exclude man-made objects or other kinds of cultural heritage sites – protected sites may therefore include where formal protection is given to buildings, archaeological sites of all pre-historic and historic times, including medieval sites/constructions or other cultural objects. This may also be applied to protected sites comprising specific geological, hydrogeological or geomorphological values.
Protected sites in many cases have a formal delineation documentation in cadastral databases. However, delineation injunctions for protected sites are manifold and may just as often not follow cadastral boundaries (e.g. for reasons of generalisation in small scale maps for Natura2000). Being spatial objects under the INSPIRE directive, however, protected sites need to have distinct boundaries of their own, rather than being a mere specific category of some other spatial object type.
Examples of legislation and policies regulating protected sites are Habitat directive (1992) (Directive 92/43/EEC), Birds directive (Directive 79/409/EEC), World Heritage, Ramsar Convention, Barcelona Convention, Helsinki Convention, OSPAR Convention, national law and other international sector policies.