Natural England Conservation Advice for Marine Protected Areas
Studland to Portland SAC

Natural England guidance

This site collection contains Natural England's conservation advice for this site. It fulfils Natural England’s responsibility under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended), to give advice on how to further the conservation objectives for the site, identify the activities that are capable of affecting the qualifying features and the processes which they are dependent upon.

Natural England's conservation advice for this site is made up of a number of components. You will need to consider: Additional information for consideration:

Site information

Site name: Studland to Portland SAC
Designation type: SAC
Site identification: UK0030382
Latest designation date: 29 September 2017
Qualifying features
(click to see site specific description):

General information on the site features:
The generic information on the qualifying features is useful for understanding the qualifying features, and should be used in conjunction with the site specific information.
Designated area (ha): 33191.09
Moderation/boundary changes: The site was designated as a Site of Community Importance (SCI) on 30 August 2012. The status changed to a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) on 29th September 2017.
Component Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI):
Overlapping Protected Areas:

Last updated: 14th September 2018

Background information and geography

The Studland to Portland SAC lies off the Dorset coast, and is comprised of two sections; the Studland Bay to Ringstead Bay reefs and the Portland reefs. The site contains a diverse range of reef habitats, which exhibit a large amount of geological variety and biological diversity.

The Studland Bay to Ringstead Bay section contains numerous geological features of interest including: exposed soft chalk bedrock around Ballard Cliffs in the east and Ringstead Bay in the west; limestone ledges protruding from shelly gravel at Worbarrow Bay, and shale reefs extending from Kimmeridge. Other areas of particular interest that support the site’s diverse marine life include: Evan’s Rock; St. Albans ledge; the limestone blocks of “seabed caves”; and Lulworth Banks. Within this section of the site seagrass beds, maerl beds, and Ampelisca mats have been recorded, with Sabellaria reefs having been recorded in the past.

The Portland Reefs section surrounds Portland Bill and is characterised by flat bedrock, limestone ledges, large boulders and cobbles. The boulders and ledges occur where the eroded coastal cliffs of Portland extend underwater. South of Portland Bill, a steep drop off has been formed which runs south west of the Bill and extends to depths of over 60m. This mosaic of reef habitats are exposed to extremely strong tides, currents and wave action, and support a diverse range of marine life. Mussel (Mytilus edulis) beds are found to occur on bedrock off the eastern side of Portland Bill, and also in the infralittoral zones of the eastern reefs amongst kelp forests (Cork et al., 2008), (Dewey et al., 2011), (Natural England, 2009).

Site maps

Use the MAGIC website to see site maps, including habitats, species and other marine designations.

These maps are based on best available evidence, there are some caveats associated with the maps on MAGIC.

There are some instances where the feature, subfeature or supporting habitat name varies on MAGIC from the conservation advice. The alternative names are listed on

The dynamic nature of habitat features and supporting habitats for mobile species is illustrated where data is available, as new evidence becomes available these maps will be updated with our current knowledge of their known extent.

The subfeature subtidal stony reefs is not currently mappable using Natural England’s current evidence standards. However, an internal assessment of extent provisionally estimated partial extent of the subfeature to be 73.84 ha. This value was used in Natural England's previous conservation advice package (Regulation 35), and is the best data available. Further investigation is required to better understand the full extent and distribution of subtidal stony reef within the site. Extent data for subtidal stony reef will be updated in due course.

Conservation objectives

The site’s conservation objectives apply to the site and the individual species and/or assemblage of species for which the site has been classified (the "Qualifying features" listed above).

The objectives are to ensure that, subject to natural change, the integrity of the site is maintained or restored as appropriate, and that the site contributes to achieving the Favourable Conservation Status of its qualifying features, by maintaining or restoring:
  • the extent and distribution of qualifying natural habitats and habitats of the qualifying species
  • the structure and function (including typical species) of qualifying natural habitats
  • the structure and function of the habitats of the qualifying species
  • the supporting processes on which qualifying natural habitats and the habitats of qualifying species rely
  • the populations of each of the qualifying species
  • the distribution of qualifying species within the site

Qualifying features

Refer to the site information table above for the list of features within this site.

This should be read in conjunction with the accompanying supplementary advice section, which provides more detailed information to help achieve the objectives set out above, including which attributes should be maintained and which restored.

The conservation objectives apply under the Habitats Regulations, and must be considered during a Habitats Regulation Assessment, including an Appropriate Assessment.

The conservation objectives and accompanying supplementary advice provide a framework to inform the management and measures needed to conserve or restore the European site, and the prevention of deterioration and significant disturbance of its qualifying features.

Where the objectives are met, the site will be considered to show a high level of integrity, and to be contributing to achieving the aims of the Habitats Regulations.

Supplementary Advice on Conservation Objectives

See supplementary advice on conservation objectives for this site, which aim to describe the range of ecological attributes that are most likely to contribute to a site’s overall integrity.

Last updated: 13th March 2020

Advice on Operations

See the advice on operations for this site to view information on the sensitivity of features in this site to the pressures exerted by different activities.

Last updated: 13th March 2020

Feature Condition

In 2016, Natural England trialled and rolled out a new Marine Protected Area (MPA) condition assessment methodology that provides robust results and information on the condition of marine features designated within MPAs in England. With guidance from National teams and using all available evidence and condition monitoring data, Area Teams conduct these assessments following a standardised approach that assesses if the feature and sub feature conservation targets set for each MPA have been met.

To date, condition assessments have been completed for a number of features in a range of marine Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) by the National and Area Teams. Further marine habitat features in SACs and other MPAs will continue to be assessed in the future. The new method can now also be applied to complete habitat and species condition assessments for other MPAs in England, whilst still meeting the different processes in place to report on the results of condition of features in Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Different processes are currently in place to decide and report on the condition of non-marine habitat and species features of SACs.

The main part of the assessment process is directly undertaken and stored here on Natural England’s Designated Sites View. The details for the most recent assessments of this site can be found here.

Management measures

If you are carrying out an environmental assessment, planning an operation or assessing an operation or proposal, it is important to consult with the following organisations where applicable. To find out if any management measures, byelaws or other restrictions apply to your activity see the management measure page or you can use the following links for more information.

The Marine Management Organisation license, regulate and plan marine activities in the seas around England and Wales so that they’re carried out in a sustainable way.
Environment Agency are responsible for regulating major industry and waste, water quality and resources, fisheries, inland river, estuary and harbour navigations, conservation and ecology.
Offshore Petroleum Regulator for the Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED) regulates oil and gas, CCS and gas storage activities in the marine environment.

Further information

For further information relating to this designated site you can refer to the following resources:
Site specific information: Other information:
For further information about this site contact: Natural England enquiries Telephone: 0300 060 3900. Email: