SPA description
(information as published 2001)

Dorset Heathlands

image: SPA location map 


The Dorset Heathlands cover an extensive complex of heathland sites at the western edge of the Hampshire Basin in southern England. The area is centred around the large estuary of Poole Harbour and lies in close proximity to the urban conurbation of Bournemouth and Poole. Past losses of the heathland (an estimated 75% during the twentieth century to development, agriculture and afforestation) have left the remaining heaths in a highly fragmented state. Despite this decline and fragmentation, the heaths show a high degree of ecological cohesion. They contain large areas of dry heath, wet heath and acid valley mire, all habitats that are restricted to the Atlantic fringe of Europe. The examples of the Dorset Heathlands are among the best of their type in the UK. There are also transitions to coastal wetlands and floodplain fen habitats. The whole complex has an outstanding fauna in a European context, covering many different taxa. Many species have a specialist ecology, strongly associated with, or restricted to, heathland. The area is ornithologically important for specialist breeding birds of lowland heathland, as well as for some wintering raptors. 


Qualifying species

For individual species accounts visit the Species Accounts section

This site qualifies under Article 4.1 of the Directive (79/409/EEC) by supporting populations of European importance of the following species listed on Annex I of the Directive:
During the breeding season;
Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata, 418 pairs representing at least 26.1% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Three count mean, 1991-2 & 1994)
Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus, 386 pairs representing at least 11.4% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Two year mean 1991-1992)
Woodlark Lullula arborea, 60 pairs representing at least 4.0% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Count as at 1997)
Over winter;
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus, 20 individuals representing at least 2.7% of the wintering population in Great Britain (Count, as at 1991/2)
Merlin Falco columbarius, 15 individuals representing at least 1.0% of the wintering population in Great Britain (Count, as at 1991/2)



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