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Sites of Species Scientific Interest in Dorset

The sites of special scientific interest designated in Dorset shown on a map or as an alphabetical list. Also a link to the Natural England website where there is more information about the legal status of site protection.

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SSSI Index


Natural England

Sites of Species Scientific Interest (usually known as SSSI) are areas of land that are afforded legal protection. Natural England (the official government agency for these matters) can designate any area of land based on criteria specified under the prevailing legislation. Sites can be designated SSSI for their biological interest or geological interest and occasionally for both.

There are 139 SSSI in Dorset (140 if you include 150 metres of the River Axe in the west of the county) of which 22 are designated primarily for their geological interest which, as far as the Nature of Dorset is concerned, I have not pursued interest in. The biological sites tend to cover three primary habitats; heathland, chalk downland and unimproved pasture. There are others, of course, including ancient woodland but, surprisingly, there is not a great deal of ancient woodland in Dorset.

There is no direct correlation between SSSI and nature reserves. Not all SSSI are nature reserves and nature reserves are not, automatically SSSI and the two should not be confused. Some SSSI are on private land and there is little or no public access; some are actually on land where the public are specifically excluded from (Blandford Camp and Holton Heath for example).