Research and monitoring are words that are often used interchangeably and there is a degree of overlap, but each has a vital role to play in the management of the Special Area of Conservation.
Monitoring involves the long term study of various aspects of the SAC aimed at detecting changes over time. The Habitats Directive requires the government to report to Europe every six years on whether the SAC is meeting its objectives; without monitoring the condition of the features of the site (the dolphin population or extent and quality of reef for example), this could be no better than guesswork.
Research (in this context) refers to those studies aimed at improving our knowledge of the natural environment (including its interactions with man) which generally have an end point when conclusions can be drawn. For example: studying how boats and dolphins interact has demonstrated that dolphins are less likely to be scared away from favoured feeding sites when boats follow the code of conduct and tells us that the code is giving out the right messages.
Natural Resources Wales is responsible for licensing research within the SAC. This allows potential damage to the site to be balanced against the benefits of the knowledge gained.