What is heathland habitat?
Heathland is beautiful, wild and full of rare and intriguing wildlife. Together, Dorset’s heathlands form one of the best remaining areas of this rare and special habitat.
Dorset’s heaths were once vital for grazing livestock and much more - gorse for firewood, bracken for bedding, heather for thatch, and extraction of sand and clay. These activities created microhabitat such as tramped trackways, shallow pools and exposed sandy patches - vital home for specialist heathland wildlife. Sadly, only 15% of Dorset's heathland still exists.
Why is this habitat at risk?
The reasons for this are varied and complex, but one of the key issues is the halting of traditional management practices; the impact of these is not fully replicated by modern habitat management. Despite long-standing efforts to conserve the remaining patches of heathland, 60% of key heathland species are in decline in Dorset, with some just barely hanging on.
How we’ll bring back Dorset’s heaths
This Back from the Brink Project includes an ambitious programme of management work across selected sites, creating the micro-habitats that key heathland species need if their populations are to expand and colonise new areas.
We will target eight microhabitats, 19 localised species and an additional 16 species that are more widely dispersed across the heaths. These will range from the Large-celled Flapwort (a tiny liverwort) and the striking Purbeck mason wasp to the beautiful sand lizard and the miniature gentian known as yellow centuary. At the same time, and just as importantly, we will be working with local communities to enthuse new audiences and naturalists alike. We will also offer a range of walks, events and training opportunities to local people and land managers.
What we’re aiming for
By the end of the project, we aim to have enthused people to value their heaths and contribute to looking after them in the future. We want to restore and expand the microhabitats, securing the future for the precious species they support.
How to get involved
Can you help us by getting involved with surveys, or with management for Dorset’s heaths? Find out more at our talks, walks and events.
You can get the latest news, and find out about upcoming events, by following the links below.
August - September 2017
Baseline botanical surveys underway
First use of new Dorset Heaths learning and enquiry packs
Training for outdoor educators starts
First tranche of scrub clearance and bare ground creation completed
ID workshops and volunteer surveys start
Second tranche of microhabitat management completed including watercourse restoration and pond creation
Translocations of Chamomile
1 July 2020
Populations of 18 key heathland species have been increased