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South Dorset MPA

Status: Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)

South Dorset MCZ is a joint inshore and offshore site, 30–60 m deep, located approximately 17.5 km south of St Albans Head. Natural England and JNCC are responsible for advising on the site’s protected features within and outside the 12 nm limit boundary respectively.

Site

Located approximately 17.5 km south of St Albans Head South Dorset MCZ is a joint inshore and offshore site, 30–60 m deep, and therefore Natural England and JNCC are responsible for advising on the site’s protected features within and outside the 12 nm limit boundary respectively.

South Dorset MCZ protects four seabed habitats: Moderate energy circalittoral rock, High energy circalittoral rock, Subtidal coarse sediment and Subtidal chalk. The MCZ is important as it protects exposed outcrops of subtidal chalk in relatively deep water (over 50 m) despite this habitat usually found in shallower water (5–20 m) on the south-east and eastern coasts of the UK.

More detailed site information can be found in the Summary section below.

Map displaying the South Dorset MPA boundary and associated protected feature data. Visit JNCC's MPA Mapper to further view and explore data for this MPA.

Map showing South Dorset Marine Protected Area and linking to the MPA mapper

Legislation

Legislation behind the designation: Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009)

 

Protected Features

 Protected Feature Feature type
Moderate energy circalittoral rock Broad-scale habitat
High energy circalittoral rock Broad-scale habitat
Subtidal coarse sediment Broad-scale habitat
Subtidal chalk Habitat feature of conservation importance

Specific information on the conservation objectives relating to this site is provided in the Conservation Advice section.

The acquisition of new data may result in updates to our knowledge on feature presence and extent within this site. The most up-to-date information is reflected on the map at the top of the page and in JNCC's MPA mapperwith the evidence underpinning available within the Evidence section.

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Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of South Dorset MCZ. More detail can be found within the Relevant Documentation section and in the post consultation advice.

September 2011
Regional Projects recommended a total of 127 Marine Conservation Zones (rMCZs) to Defra and the statutory nature conservation bodies (SNCBs).
November 2013
Tranche One designations announced, South Dorset MCZ designated.
January 2016
Tranche Two designations announced, additional feature designated in South Dorset MCZ.
June 2018
Formal public consultation on Tranche Three rMCZs, including additional feature for South Dorset MCZ.
May 2019
Tranche Three designations announced, additional feature designated in South Dorset MCZ.

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Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to South Dorset MCZ were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date. This Site Information Centre is the most up-to-date source of information for South Dorset MCZ, and will reflect any additional information gathered since these documents were produced. Further information about the MCZ site selection process and historic MCZ advice is available on JNCC's MCZ webpages.

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Summary

Last updated: October 2020

This site summary was adapted from the MCZ Site Report and incorporates any information gathered since this document was produced. Please refer to the report for further details and information sources.

Site overview

South Dorset MCZ is located approximately 17.5 km south of St Alban’s Head. The site lies approximately 4 km to the west of the Wight-Barfleur Reef SAC, and 5 km south of Studland to Portland SAC. The seabed in the MCZ is characterised by circalittoral rock with overlaying deposits of subtidal coarse sediment of varying depth. The eastern half of the site has longitudinal furrows of alternating cobbles and gravel, oriented in the direction of the tide. Bryozoans such as the sea mat (Electra pilosa) and hornwrack (Flustra foliacea), sea squirts such as orange sea grapes (Stolonica socialis) and the baked bean ascidian (Dendrodoa grossularia), and encrusting sponges dominate rocky areas within the site. Crustaceans such as the long-clawed porcelain crab (Pisidia longicornis) and common spider crab (Maja brachydactyla) hide in the crevices and cobbles in furrows. In addition, the great scallop (Pecten maximus), common sunstar (Crossaster papposus) and goose foot starfish (Anseropoda placenta) can be found in areas of subtidal coarse sediment, and the small-spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula) has also been found at the site.  

The site currently has four designated features: moderate energy circalittoral rock, high energy circalittoral rocksubtidal coarse sediment and subtidal chalk. Subtidal chalk is typically found on south-eastern and eastern coasts of the UK, but this site protects the only known example of this habitat in deeper water and beyond the 12 nautical miles boundary limit.

South Dorset MCZ was originally recommended by the Finding Sanctuary regional project in 2011 to help meet the broad-scale habitat targets set and due to the occurrence of subtidal chalk within the site. South Dorset MCZ was designated in 2013 for subtidal coarse sediment and subtidal chalk. Since the site was recommended, further data analysis and an additional site survey in 2013 confirmed the presence of moderate energy circalittoral rock and subtidal chalk within the site. A new modelled habitat map based on the 2013 site survey data was also produced that revised the extent of subtidal mixed sediments and subtidal coarse sediment within the site.

A further survey was carried out by Natural England in 2015, identifying the presence of high energy circalittoral rock within the MCZ. This feature was designated as an additional protected feature of the site in Tranche Three.  Further detail on the evidence for this MCZ can be found in the Evidence section.

Site location: Co-ordinates for this MCZ can be found in the designation order in the Relevant Documentation section.

Site area: 193 km2, approximately one-third of the size of the New Forest (571 km2).

Site depth range: 35 m–59 m.

Charting Progress 2 biogeographic region: Eastern Channel.

Site boundary description: The site is a simple polygon with boundary lines running north to south and east to west in line with the MCZ project Ecological Network Guidance. The boundary of South Dorset MCZ was developed by the Finding Sanctuary regional project and has not changed since it was recommended in 2011. The site boundary was guided by information on renewable energy companies and the round 3 wind-farm licensing area and intersects the 12 nm territorial limit boundary line.

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Evidence

Last updated: December 2020

There are a range of data that underpin this MCZ. The full overview of these data used to support site identification along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in Natural England's 2013 Tranche One post-consultation advice, 2015 Tranche Two post-consultation advice and Tranche Three MCZ pre-consultation and post-consultation scientific advice for the additional feature proposed for designation in 2019. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to its MPA mapper in due course.

Some of the data for this MCZ have been collected through Defra-funded or collaborative surveys, and some through other means. Data from these surveys provide direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected features within the site.

 

Survey and data gathering

  • South Dorset MCZ Baseline Monitoring Survey (2015) – Cefas-led survey that aimed to establish monitoring sample stations for the site and collect further data to determine the extent of subtidal chalk in the site. Video, images, acoustic data and grab samples were collected across the site.
  • South Dorset MCZ Survey (2013) – JNCC and Natural England collaborated with Cefas on two MCZ site verification surveys to South Dorset MCZ, funded through the MB0120 Defra data collection project. Video, images, acoustic data and grab samples were collected across the site.

 

Data analysis reports

  • South Dorset MCZ characterisation report (2015) – Cefas undertook analysis of data collected on the South Dorset baseline monitoring survey (2015). This will form the initial point in a time series against which feature (and site) condition can be assessed in the future.
  • South Dorset rMCZ Post-survey site report (2014) – Cefas undertook analysis of the data collected on the South Dorset MCZ survey (2013).  The data, analysed as part of the MB0120 Defra contract, led to the creation of a revised habitat map that has been used to inform the presence of broad-scale habitats within the MCZ.

 

Additional relevant literature

References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in Natural England's 2013 post-consultation advice2015 pre-consultation adviceand 2016 post-consultation advice, 2017 pre-consultation and 2019 post-consultation advice. Please be aware that although these sources contain information in relation to this MPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC.

 

Knowledge gaps

If you are aware of any additional data not listed here or scientific papers relevant to this site, please contact us.

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Conservation Advice

Last updated: March 2021

JNCC and Natural England have published updated conservation advice for South Dorset MCZ (March 2021). This advice is available through Natural England’s Designated Sites System for South Dorset MCZ.

The advice reflects the most up-to-date evidence held by Natural England and JNCC. The conservation advice should be taken into consideration to assess the effects which a planned activity can have on the site’s integrity and when making decisions regarding management and consenting of marine activities in or near the site. 

For more information on JNCC’s approach to conservation advice please see our 'Conserving MPAs' webpage. Information can also be found on Natural England’s website.

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Activities and Management

Last updated: November 2018

Management status: Progressing towards being well managed.

The vulnerability assessment conducted for this site suggests the Moderate energy circalittoral rock and Subtidal chalk features are unlikely to be moving towards their conservation objectives, while the Subtidal coarse sediment feature may be achieving or moving towards its conservation objective. Directed site condition monitoring is needed to improve our confidence in this assessment. Progress is ongoing with regards to the recommendation of a fisheries management proposal.

This site forms part of the UK's contribution to the OSPAR Commission’s network of MPAs. As the UK is a contracting party to the OSPAR Commission, JNCC is committed to ensuring that the OSPAR MPA network is well-managed.

JNCC considers 'well-managed' to mean the timely progress of an MPA around the 'MPA management cycle'. This involves:

  1. The documentation of appropriate management information – conservation objectives, advice on activities capable of affecting the protected features of a site, and spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected features of a site.
  2. The implementation of management measures – management actions considered necessary to achieve the conservation objectives of a site.
  3. Site condition monitoring programmes – collecting the information necessary to determine progress towards a site's conservation objectives.
  4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives – using available information to infer whether or not a site is moving towards or has achieved its conservation objectives.

The sub-sections that follow provide an account of the progress of South Dorset MCZ around each of these four stages in the MPA management cycle.

 

1. The documentation of appropriate management information

  • The conservation objectives and advice on activities capable of affecting the conservation status of the protected feature of this site are available in the Conservation Advice section. Further information is available on our 'Conserving MPAs' webpage.
  • Spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected feature of this MPA is available via JNCC's MPA mapper.
  • JNCC is in the process of developing downloadable MPA data packages where appropriate permissions to share datasets are in place.

 

2. The implementation of management measures

This section details progress towards the implementation of management measures for activities considered capable of affecting the conservation status of the protected features of the site. The protected features of the site are considered to be sensitive to pressures associated with fishing and 'licensable' activities.

Fisheries

  • Vessel monitoring data indicate that towing of mobile demersal gear and some pelagic trawling also occur within the MCZ.
  • As this site straddles the 6–12 nm limit, advice on fishing impacts is the joint responsibility of Natural England and JNCC, and fisheries are subject to regulation through the Fisheries Act 2020.
  • The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is the lead authority regarding the implementation of, and compliance with, any measures to managing fishing activity beyond 12 nautical miles. Further information on progress is available on the Marine Management Organisation's webpages

Licensable activities

  • Whilst licensable activities such as oil and gas exploration and production do not take place within this MPA, any future proposals would be managed in accordance with the clauses set out under Section 127 of The Marine & Coastal Access Act (2009). Under this clause, JNCC has a statutory responsibility to advise the regulator on developments that are capable of affecting (other than insignificantly) the protected features of the MPA and that may hinder the achievement of the sites conservation objectives. JNCC considers that the existing marine licensing process is sufficient to ensure the management of licensable activities taking place, or that could take place in the future, on the protected features of this MPA.
  • For further information, please see the MMO's guidance on marine conservation zones and marine licensing.
  • Further information on JNCC's role in the provision of advice for licensed activities in the UK offshore area is available on JNCC's offshore industry advice webpages

Shipping

  • The site is located between shipping lanes and is subject to a relatively low level of shipping. Under international law, ships have a right of passage, including through MPAs (unless management specifies the restriction of ship transiting through an International Maritime Organisation measure). The pressures associated with shipping activity within South Dorset MCZ are not considered likely to impact the protected features of the site.

Ministry of Defence activity

  • The site is within a Ministry of Defence (MOD) exercise area. The MOD has incorporated all designated MPAs into their Environmental Protection Guidelines (Maritime) and wider Marine Environmental and Sustainability Assessment Tool. These guidelines are used to manage MOD activity to minimise the associated risks to the environment.

Recreational activity

  • A Royal Yachting Association (RYA) cruising route crosses the eastern part of the site. Recreational use data indicates the site could also be subject to recreational boat-based sea angling and scuba diving.

Wrecks

  • Seven wrecks have been recorded by the UK Hydrographic Office within the site. 

 

3. Site condition monitoring

A baseline condition monitoring survey took place in 2015 to establish monitoring stations for the site. Video, images, acoustic data and grab samples were collected across the site. Reporting is underway and will be made available in the Monitoring section in due course.

 

4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives

No long-term condition monitoring data is available to determine whether the MPA is moving towards or has reached its conservation objectives. The vulnerability assessment conducted for this site suggests the Moderate energy circalittoral rock and Subtidal chalk features are unlikely to be moving towards their conservation objectives, while the Subtidal coarse sediment feature may be achieving or moving towards its conservation objective. Directed site condition monitoring is needed to improve our confidence in this assessment. Progress is ongoing with regards to the recommendation of a fisheries management proposal.

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Monitoring

Last updated: October 2020

JNCC is currently leading on the development of a strategy for biodiversity monitoring across all UK waters, to include MPA monitoring. For MPAs, data and evidence collected from monitoring activities will aim to:

  • enable assessment of condition of the features within sites;
  • enable assessment of the degree to which management measures are effective in achieving the conservation objectives for the protected features;
  • support the identification of priorities for future protection and/or management; and
  • enable the government to fulfil its national and international assessment and reporting commitments in relation to MPAs and help identify where further action may be required.

In 2015 a monitoring survey was undertaken within South Dorset MCZ. These data will form part of the ongoing time series of data and evidence for this MCZ.

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