Dorset Heath & Studland Dunes IPA

Location: Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, either side of the A351 between Wareham and Swanage.

Grid Reference: SY 950 853

Dorset Heath & Studland Dunes IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.

The key features of this IPA are:

  • The species richness of bryophytes in bogs.
  • The species richness of lichens in broadleaved deciduous woodland
  • The species richness of vascular plants on heaths, coastal dune and sand habitat, littoral zone of inland surface water bodies and dry and acid grassland.
  • One of the best UK examples of threatened habitat of:
    Old fixed dunes;
    Bog woodland;
    Sparsely vegetated open peat with White Beak-sedge;
    Very young mobile dunes;
    Dry heaths;
    Humid dune slacks;
    Wet heaths;
    Nutrient poor lakes with sparse vegetation;
    Shifting dunes along the shoreline;
    Wet heaths with Dorset heath and Cross-leaved heath
  • These heathlands, amounting to 7,000 hectares, are much diminished from the original area of 50,000 hectares which once stretched from Poole to Wareham, and yet still comprise some of the most interesting heathland to be found in Britain today.

    The landscape is one of lowland heath interspersed with pasture and woodland. The acid soils support a wide, and exceptionally rich, spectrum of heathland floral communities, from dry heath to valley mire.

    The mire system, running from west to east, comprises two arms, each of which support distinct vegetation derived from the different chemical properties: the northern is acidic and low in calcium whereas the south is more alkaline. The area also has an outer edge of rolling hills with a patchwork of pasture and woodland.

    At the northern acidic arm and to the east there are bog mosses, the rare bog sedge, the bog orchid and marsh gentian. By contrast at the southern arm, black bog-rush predominates. Surrounding the mire are large areas of wet heath where the rare Dorset heath may be found: this is also home to ling, cross-leaved heath, purple moor-grass, carnation sedge and deer grass. As the terrain turns to dry heath, so dwarf gorse and common gorse become abundant.