A SHOCK report has revealed that the habitat quality of 118 of Dorset’s local wildlife sites have deteriorated significantly in the last five years.

This accounts for nine per cent of sites and Dorset Environmental Records centre records also show that in the last 10 years, 34 sites, known as Sites of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI) in the county, have been wholly or partially destroyed.

Dorset Wildlife Trust contributed to the national Secret Spaces report, published by The Wildlife Trusts, which listed a variety of reasons why wildlife sites are lost or damaged including development, re-planting, ploughing and the use of fertilisers.

Much heathland and unimproved grassland becomes smothered in scrub and bracken if left unmanaged.

“There are lots of good quality wildlife sites in Dorset, but many are at risk from neglect, damage or development,” said Sharron Abbott, the trust’s SNCI manager.

“Many of these sites can be overlooked but in fact have high quality habitats for a variety of wildlife and are our ‘secret spaces’.

“A local wildlife site could include a churchyard, or local community space, so it is very important they are cared for, not just for wildlife, but for people too.”

She added: “DWT recognises that many landowners are already working hard to maintain and protect local wildlife sites, but this is increasingly difficult due to the reduction in the government’s grants to farmers and landowners to enable them to do this.”

Local wildlife sites are vital hotspots and provide important stepping stones for wildlife between protected sites such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. SNCIs in Poole include Corfe Hills West and Delph Woods, recently acquired by Borough of Poole through the Great Heaths Project.

Wildlife trusts both locally and nationally will be urging local authorities and developers to fully recognise the impor-tance of these sites in the planning process and the government to prioritise land management funding and advisory schemes to help landowners manage these important sites for the benefit of wildlife.