Purbeck Heaths will become the UK’s first ‘super’ National Nature Reserve

Different habitats will be joined together to create a large NNR at Purbeck Heaths more than three times its original size in a bid to tackle the climate emergency and provide a lifeline for nature.

Purbeck Heath in Dorset

Understanding an increased need for a more joined-up approach to nature conservation, National Trust, Natural England, RSPB, Forestry England, Rempstone Estate, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, as well as landowners and managers, are combining their resources.

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In a bold new initiative, Purbeck Heaths in Dorset will combine 3 existing NNRs at Stoborough Heath, Hartland Moor, and Studland and Godlingston Heath, linking them together with new land that includes nature reserves and conservation areas.

The result will be a protected area of 3,331 hectares (8,231 acres in total) — an area similar to the size of Blackpool.

Natural England Chair Tony Juniper explains, “By creating bigger, better, and more joined-up wild places like this one, we will achieve big benefits for both people and wildlife.”

A reason for choosing Purbeck Heaths for this initiative is due to the fact it is one of the most biodiverse locations in the UK, boasting the richest recorded 10km for biodiversity in the country, including 450 species that are rare, threatened, or protected.

All 6 native reptiles can be found at the park, as well as rare heathland birds such as breeding nightjars, and raptors such as hen harriers, marsh harriers, merlins, and ospreys.

At least 12 species of bat live on the NNR, which is the last stronghold for such invertebrates as southern damselflies, and the Purbeck mason wasp. It is also home to Dorset’s only colony of small pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies.

Rare plants at the reserve include marsh gentians, great sundews, lesser butterfly orchids, and at least two fungi that are found nowhere else in England and Wales.

In total, 11 types of priority habitat will be connected in order for wildlife to move more easily across the landscape.

The park’s varied landscape includes lowland wet and dry heath, valley mires, acid grassland and woodland, coastal sand dunes, lakes, and saltmarsh. In addition, conifer plantations are being restored to heathland.

Creating an unbroken landscape to combine varied habitats in this way will bring enormous benefits to wildlife, tackling the decline in nature, as well as making the landscape more resilient to climate change.

“All the rare and beautiful wildlife living in and beyond the reserve will benefit hugely from a landscape where habitats are bigger, in better condition and better connected – and where natural processes are restored,” explained Mark Harold, National Trust Director of Land & Nature. “Here they will be able to spread and build more resilient populations.”

People will also benefit from the park, with more than 2.5 million people visiting Purbeck each year, offering them the opportunity to improve their health and wellbeing.

“Purbeck Heaths is a trailblazing example of how landscape-scale conservation can help wildlife thrive, improve people’s well-being, and build resilience to climate change,” says Defra Environment Minister Rebecca Pow.

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“Through our landmark 25 Year Environment Plan we will deliver a greener future, and the collaborative spirit of Purbeck Heaths marks a significant step towards putting our ambitious plans to leave the environment in a better state than we found it into action.”