Factsheet for Dorset Heaths and Studland Dunes

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Country: United Kingdom

Central coordinates: 50.66676770o [50o 40' 0" North], -2.07075714o [2o 4' 14" West]

Administrative region: South West (Dorset)

Area: 2222 ha

Altitude: 8 - 165

Site Description
The two Dorset Heaths SACs, together with the New Forest (also in southern England), contain a large proportion of the total UK resource of lowland northern Atlantic wet heaths. The habitat is of the M16 Erica tetralix – Sphagnum compactum wet heath type and occurs as well-developed transitions between dry heath and valley bog. This habitat type is important for rare plants, such as marsh gentian Gentiana pneumonanthe, brown beak-sedge Rhynchospora fusca and great sundew Drosera anglica. The wet heaths and mires are also important for scarce Odonata, such as small red damselfly Ceriagrion tenellum and the Annex II species 1044 Southern damselfly Coenagrion mercuriale. The sites are an important transitional area between the more oceanic heathlands of the south-west peninsula and the semi-continental heathlands of eastern England.The greatest concentration of Dorset heath Erica ciliaris in the UK is in Dorset on the heaths south of Poole Harbour, with outlying stands elsewhere in Dorset. Dorset Heaths (Purbeck and Wareham) and Studland Dunes has therefore been selected as it contains a high proportion of the total UK population of E. ciliaris.This site in southern England has extensive stands of lowland dry heath vegetation. The types include H2 Calluna vulgaris – Ulex minor heath, H3 Ulex minor – Agrostis curtisii heath and some areas of H4 Ulex gallii – Agrostis curtisii heath. The communities are dominated by heather Calluna vulgaris growing in association with bell heather Erica cinerea and one of the dwarf gorse species – dwarf gorse Ulex minor or western gorse U. gallii. The heaths are rich in rare plants, invertebrates, birds and reptiles. Both of the Dorset Heath SACs and the New Forest are in southern England. All three areas are selected because together they contain a high proportion of all the lowland European dry heaths in the UK. There are, however, significant differences in the ecology of the two areas, associated with more oceanic conditions in Dorset and the continuous history of grazing in the New Forest.The two Dorset Heaths cSACs, together with the New Forest, support a large proportion of the resource of Depressions on peat substrates of the Rhynchosporion within England. The habitat is widespread on the Dorset Heaths, both in bog pools of valley mires and in flushes. There are numerous valley mires within the Dorset Heaths, and the habitat type is most extensively represented here as part of a habitat mosaic. This location shows extensive representation of brown-beak sedge Rhynchospora fusca and is also important for great sundew Drosera anglica and bog orchid Hammarbya paludosa.The Dorset Heaths contain small pockets of wet woodland within valley mires but most of these appear to be of recent origin. However, at Morden Bog a Bog woodland stand is of ancient origin, as shown by its pollen record and old maps. The woodland is dominated by downy birch Betula pubescens with a ground flora consisting of greater tussock sedge Carex paniculata and purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea. There is a rich epiphytic lichen assemblage, again indicating the persistence of this area of bog woodland.

Botanical Significance
Identified for vascular, lichen, bryophyte and habitat interest.

Management guidance notes
Component sites: Creech Grange Complex, Hartland Moor. Identified for vascular, lichen, bryophyte and habitat interest.

Notes
None