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Special Areas of Conservation

Isle of Portland to Studland Cliffs

Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Country England
Unitary Authority Dorset and Somerset
Centroid* SY840802
Latitude 50.6206
Longitude -2.2261
SAC EU Code UK0019861
Status Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Area (ha) 1441.75
* This is the approximate central point of the SAC. In the case of large, linear or composite sites, this may not represent the location where a feature occurs within the SAC.
Location of Isle of Portland to Studland Cliffs SAC

General site character

  • Shingle, Sea cliffs, Islets (40%)
  • Heath, Scrub, Maquis and Garrigue, Phygrana (5%)
  • Dry grassland, Steppes (55%)

Download the Natura 2000 standard data form for this site as submitted to Europe (PDF <100kb)

Note When undertaking an appropriate assessment of impacts at a site, all features of European importance (both primary and non-primary) need to be considered.

Annex I habitats that are a primary reason for selection of this site

  • Isle of Portland to Studland Cliffs, including the detached peninsula of Portland, with St Albans Head to Durlston Head, forms a single unit of cliffed coastline some 40 km in length. The cliffs are formed of hard limestones, with chalk at the eastern end, interspersed with slumped sections of soft cliff of sand and clays. The cliffs support species-rich calcareous grassland with species that are rare in the UK, such as wild cabbage Brassica oleracea var. oleracea, early spider-orchid Ophrys sphegodes and Nottingham catchfly Silene nutans. The Portland peninsula, extending 8 km south of the mainland, demonstrates very clearly the contrast between the exposed western and southern coasts, with sheer rock faces and sparse maritime vegetation, and the sheltered eastern side, with sloping cliffs supporting scrub communities, where wood spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides grows in grassland.

  • Semi-natural dry grassland occurs at this site in both inland and coastal situations on both chalk and Jurassic limestone. The site contains extensive species-rich examples of CG4 Brachypodium pinnatum grassland in the southern part of its UK range. Smaller areas of CG2 Festuca ovinaAvenula pratensis grassland occur on shallow soils on steeper slopes. Transitions from calcareous grassland to both chalk heath and acid grassland are also present. The site has well-developed terricolous and saxicolous lichen and bryophyte communities associated with open turf, chalk rock and pebbles, and flinty soils.

Annex I habitats present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for selection of this site

Annex II species that are a primary reason for selection of this site

  • 1654 Early gentian Gentianella anglica

    This site on the Dorset coast, together with St Albans Head to Durlston Head, supports important long-standing populations of early gentian Gentianella anglica numbering several thousands of plants in floristically-rich calcareous grassland.

Annex II species present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for site selection

  • Not Applicable

Many designated sites are on private land: the listing of a site in these pages does not imply any right of public access.