A number of reports have been commissioned by English Nature to look at the ways in which increased access and disturbance may have affected sensitive species of breeding birds within special protection areas. The cumulative effect of these reports is to show that the impacts from increased access and recreational activities vary between species, habitats and areas. It was also recognised that it is still too early to be able to quantify these impacts on habitats.
Although there are concerns about the recreational impacts on breeding and wintering bird populations, it is not yet known whether the access provisions within the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 have led to, or will cause, adverse affects on special protection areas. Further research and monitoring is required to provide a clear assessment of the overall effect of the increased level of access and disturbance in special protection areas which were previously considered not to be at risk.