Conservation Target Areas

Creating Conservation Target Areas (CTAs), key nature-enhancement opportunity areas which form an integral part of the draft Nature Recovery Network map.

Wildflowers on an Oxfordshire hillside


The Biodiversity Advisory Group led on the creation of 'Conservation Target Areas' (CTAs), which identify some of the most important areas for wildlife conservation in Oxfordshire where targeted conservation action will have the greatest benefit. CTAs cover just over 20% of the county by area (526.2 km²) and contain 95% of the SSSI land area in Oxfordshire.

Each CTA supports one or more of the 20 priority habitats found in Oxfordshire. They provide a focus for coordinated delivery of biodiversity work, agri-environment schemes and biodiversity enhancements through the planning system. The CTA maps show where the greatest gains can be made from habitat enhancement, restoration and creation, as these areas offer the best opportunities for establishing large habitat areas and/or networks of wildlife habitats. As such, they will be useful to Parish Councils developing Neighbourhood Plans, local planning authorities in the development and delivery of resilient ecological networks and Green Infrastructure.

There are currently 37 CTAs in Oxfordshire, as referenced in the State of Nature in Oxfordshire 2017 report. Wildlife of important habitats such as that found on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) cannot survive indefinitely in isolation, but need to be part of a wider network of habitats connected at a landscape scale. As well as identifying areas with concentrations of Priority Habitats and Priority Species, CTA boundaries include surrounding land which can buffer and link areas thereby creating important larger and better connected landscapes.


In 2006 Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre (TVERC) was funded by Oxfordshire County Council to identify the best areas of biodiversity and Priority Habitat across Oxfordshire, mapping areas that became known as Conservation Target Areas (CTAs).

The CTA approach is supported in both ‘Biodiversity 2020: A strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services’, which sets out the Government’s ambition to halt overall loss of England’s biodiversity by 2020, support healthy, well-functioning ecosystems, and establish coherent ecological networks, with more and better places for wildlife and people, and the 2011 Natural Environment White Paper ‘The natural choice: securing the value of nature’ (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs [Defra], 2011). Among several recommendations the white paper identified the need to “…move from net biodiversity loss to net gain, by supporting healthy, well-functioning ecosystems and coherent ecological networks”. This built on a 2010 report Making Space for Nature: a review of England’s wildlife sites and ecological network (Lawton et al, 2010).

The methods and criteria used for the original selection of the CTAs in 2006 can be found in this Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre (TVERC) report .

Creating new CTAs

Our partner Wild Oxfordshire is the custodian of the CTA process. In 2016 Wild Oxfordshire and Oxfordshire’s Biodiversity Advisory Group agreed criteria for updating existing and creating new CTAs. This is set out in the CONSERVATION TARGET AREAS: GOVERNANCE document, and provides a framework which can be applied to future proposed amendments.

CTAs and planning

Wild Oxfordshire have produced useful guidance about how Conservation Target Area (CTA) maps and statements should be used. Conservation Target Areas: Guidance Document

Related Projects