Portland is home to some unique flora and fauna. According to the Jurassic Coast Trust:
“Many parts of [Portland] island, including the whole of the coastline, are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Chesil Beach and the Fleet lagoon are of international conservation importance and home to nearly 300 species of bird, over 30 species of butterfly and 720 species of moth.”
The area from the Isle of Portland to Studland cliffs is designated a European site of SAC, as is Chesil Beach and the Fleet which is also an SPA (Special Area of Protection) for populations of little terns.
Portland is home to an array of rare and unique species such as:
Portland Sea Lavender
The Portland Sea Lavender, a sub species of Rock Sea Lavender, is one of the United Kingdom’s rarest plants. It is a clump forming perennial growing up to 30cm tall with sprays of pink flowers and fleshy green paddle shaped leaves – and grows on the limestone cliffs of Portland and nowhere else in the world.
A new species of hawkweed was discovered in 2007 – Hieracium portlandicum – Portland Hawkweed – which is endemic to the Isle of Portland, where it occurs on Portland Limestone rocks, and on surrounding soil on West and East Weares between Church Ope and approximately Durdle Pier. In 2007, 103 plants were known from the two sites, and a comparison against historical data indicates that it is still declining. It is endangered under the IUCN Threat Criteria.
Richardson’s Case-bearer Moth
Richardson’s Case-bearer (Eudarcia richardsoni) is a tiny rare moth which lives on cliffs in just two localities in Britain – Portland and Swanage – and also in Switzerland.
Large Tortoiseshell Butterfly
Excitingly, a few of examples the rare large tortoiseshell butterfly, a species long thought to be extinct in the UK, have recently been spotted on Portland.
The proposed Incinerator site at Portland Port is located in very close proximity to multiple SSSIs, SNCIs, a Marine Conservation Zone, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Nature Reserves, and other nature reserves.
Portland is also home to a surprising number of lichens. According to the conservation charity Plantlife, the rocky grasslands of the island are “important for their rare mosses, liverworts and lichens, some of which are extremely rare. Of the bryophytes, Portland striated feather-moss and blackwort liverwort are notable, being found in just a handful of sites in the UK. Over 210 lichens have been recorded, such as flat-leaved orchal, soil jelly lichen and granulose orange lichen.”
Just up from Portland Bill are the famous field patterns called ‘lawnsheds’. There’s a nice photo and map of Portland’s medieval lawnsheds on Geograph. According to Historic England‘s listing for ‘Portland open fields’:
The distinctive strips fields were produced by areas of unploughed land being left between allotments and the shape was determined by the action of ploughing which always turned the soil to the right and thus produced an undulating S-shape. The size of the strips was roughly an acre (0.405ha) which represented a days’ work with a plough and the length was determined by the distance an ox team could plough before needing a rest, a furlong (201.2m).
In Natural England’s profile of Portland, the lawnsheds are described as “one of a small number of nationally-important open-field sites still in operation with strips or “lawns” separated by “balks” or “lawnsheds” of unploughed turf.”