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A Guide to Dorset Habitats

The various habitat types found in Dorset, where to find them and the species associated with those habitats.

It is generally accepted that all 'natural' habitat can be classified and various systems of classification of British habitat have been produced for use in research and conservation. Not all these classifications occur in Dorset of course, and the various systems are quite complex. For the purposes of the Nature of Dorset I have tried to simplify this process and merge them into a distilled system which I hope non-technical people like me will find easy to use.

There is actually no such thing as a natural habitat! Not one square inch of our land in Dorset has not been influenced by human activity at some point. However, some of the habitat we see today has existed for hundreds (or even thousands) of years and has developed a flora and fauna of its own. Our several iron age forts, for example, have been largely unchanged for 2,000 years or more. Human activity is one factor that determines the habitats we see today but the underlying geology of an area will also affect what we see. Natural vegetation that has generated on chalk (a calcareous soil) will, in general, be different to that occurring on our heaths (acid soils).

In this simple guide to the habitats of Dorset I have grouped habitat types into seven 'classes' and then sub-divided them further within each class into types. For each type I have tried to identify the natures reserves in the county where that habitat type occurs and also to try and identify species most likely to be found within that habitat type. This work has been done using a combination of my record gathering in the county along with several excellent text books and guides (these are listed in the bibliography to my site).

 Caution! This section of the Nature of Dorset is currently under construction and may be incomplete or not totally accurate in places. It is, however, otherwise safe to use.


Here are the seven classess I have used. Click on an image above for the variant types that occur within a class:

  • Woodand: any area where trees are the dominant vegetation
  • Scrub: any area where smaller shrubs dominate
  • Heathland: any areas where woody vegetation such as heathers dominate
  • Grassland: areas with a scattering of tress and shubs but where grass is the dominant vegetation
  • Fresh Water: any area where the vegetaion is strongly influenced by fresh water
  • Coastal: any area where the sea strongly influences the habitat
  • Brownfield: any area where current human activity strongly influences the vegetaion

Click (or tap) any of the seven photographs below to find out more about the habitat types within each of these classes. You can also use the 'book' format to page them if you wish.

  • Geology: to understand the way habitats are affected by the underlying geology I have included an eigth section here. The 'geology' link below reveals a geological map of Dorset and some basic information on the main types of underpinning rock and soil in Dorset which affects the nature of Dorset