Geography, Habitats and Wildlife, Conservation and Survey Coverage
Poole Harbour is in east Dorset, south of the town of Poole. Its northern side is largely covered with housing but its western and southern reaches remain a natural complex of mudflats, saltmarshes, inlets and reedbeds rising to the heaths and grasslands of the Purbecks. Four rivers, the Frome, the Piddle, the Corfe and the Sherford drain into Poole Harbour from the west draining to the sea through the constricting headlands of North and South Haven (Sandbanks and Studland) in the east. There are five larger islands that provide valuable sanctuaries for some species, especially the red squirrel, which thrives on three of them.
Habitats and Wildlife
The Harbour occupies about 3,600 hectares and supports an important wildlife. The open water, mudflats, marshes and reedbeds and the important Brownsea Island Lagoon provide valuable habitats for birds. Common and Sandwich terns, shelduck and little egrets breed here and in the winter thousands of ducks, grebes, divers and waders, including black and bar tailed godwits, can be found (the Harbour now supports one of the largest wintering colonies of avocets -1400 in 2002). Reedbeds have bearded tits and scarce wainscot moths and many plants form unusual vegetation communities around the shore. Underwater eelgrasses provide food for wintering brent geese, important estuarine creatures and fish populations flourish in the unpolluted waters, and the spread and decline of the spartina beds have been the subject of much research.
Despite an increasing local human population in the conurbations of Poole and Bournemouth and a large influx of tourists in the summer the region is still nationally important for its wildlife and landscape, largely due to the work of conservationists. The whole area is one of the richest in lowland Britain for diversity of natural habitats and many important nature reserves such as the RSPB’s Arne Reserve, the National Trust’s Studland National Nature Reserve and the Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Brownsea Island Nature Reserve are within a stone’s throw of the Harbour waters.
The harbour and its surrounds are shown on the map, opposite. To the north and east of the harbour are the built up areas of Hamworthy, Poole, Canford Cliffs and Sandbanks. The surveys we produce are therefore generally conducted over the more westerly and southerly reaches, which nevertheless cover a considerable area.