A formal public consultation on Studland to Portland possible Special Area of Conservation (pSAC), situated off the Dorset coast, started on 1st September and is being undertaken by Natural England, the Government’s statutory nature conservation adviser.
The proposed marine protected area between Studland to Portland is over 330sq kms – just over half the size of the New Forest National Park – and contains a wide range of diverse, rare reef features. The Studland Bay to Ringstead Bay reefs, for example, are a mixture of exposed shales and clays, limestone, boulders and chalk bedrock. The reefs provide important platforms for colonisation of species such as the sunset cup coral, Weymouth carpet coral, squat lobsters and the reef-building Ross worms. The Portland reefs are characterised by flat bedrock, ledges, cobbles and rugged limestone boulders with deep gullies and overhangs. Communities of barnacles and sponges have made their home in ‘mini caves’ here, with mussel beds found in high densities on the bedrock.
The purpose of this consultation is to seek the views of all interested parties on the scientific case for designation of this possible SAC, and assessing likely economic, environmental and social impacts. Information, such as the consultation guidance document, maps and details of regional public meetings, can be found on Natural England’s web site:
The consultation will end on Thursday 24th November 2011. Afterwards, during 2012, Natural England will report to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the responses received during the consultation, and submit the final site recommendation and impact assessment. Once the Government has taken all consultation responses into account, it will decide whether to submit this possible SAC to the European Commission for inclusion in the Natura 2000 network.
Species living on the reef.
The proposed area contains 10 species falling under four different national and international protection schemes ((BAP, OSPAR, CITES, WCA) including five nationally rare species:
Zostera marina (UK BAP, OSPAR and ENG FOCI)
Southern cup coral, Caryophyllia inornata (Nationally rare and CITES)
Sunset cup coral, Leptopsammia pruvoti (Nationally rare, UK BAP and CITES
Devonshire cup coral, Caryophyllia smithii (CITES appendix II)
Weymouth carpet coral, Hoplangia durotrix (Nationally rare),
Pink sea fan, Eunicella verrucosa (Nationally uncommon, UK BAP, WCA)
A species of sponge, Adreus fasciculrus (Nationally rare),
Ross worm, Sabelleria spinulosa (UK BAP, H1170 reef feature),
Squat lobster, Galathea nexa (Nationally rare in south Britain),
Yellow skirt sea slug, Okenia elegans (locally rare).