Moves to help protect Dorset's rare and vulnerable seabirds have been announced.

The creation of a special zone will protect birds from human activity, such as fishing or outdoor recreation.

Close to 1,000 pairs of three species of tern will benefit from a new Solent and Dorset Coast Special Protection Area (SPA) which will span more than 891 km2.

The area, which includes the Purbeck coast east of Lulworth Cove, is the fifth most important foraging site in the UK for little terns and the seventh most important for common terns during their breeding season.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow also confirmed a comprehensive Seabird Conservation Strategy, which will be published in December. This will assess the vulnerability of each species in light of the pressures they are facing and will propose actions to address them.

Ms Pow also reiterate the UK’s commitment to strengthen protections for marine life impacted by climate change.

SPAs form part of the UK’s ‘Blue Belt’ of Marine Protected Areas and join 41 new Marine Conservation Zones designated in May 2019 – which include the Purbeck coast and area south of Portland – in helping to boost resilience to human-made pressures, as well as providing space to help species to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The UK holds around one quarter of Europe’s breeding seabirds, with the marine SPA network said to be of critical conservation importance for many birds and protecting important breeding sites and foraging grounds.

The impacts of climate change are considered to be one of the main causes of a decline in a number of species, mainly through changes to the availability of prey, rising temperatures and extreme weather events.

Regulators, such as Natural England, the Marine Management Organisation and local Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs), will be responsible for ensuring the SPAs are managed to protect their species and habitats, working with local fishing communities and other organisations.

Ms Pow said: “As the devastating impacts of climate change are only too visible, it is vital that we take decisive steps now that make a real difference to help protect our wildlife and allow vulnerable species to recover.

“We have already protected important nesting sites for seabirds, such as the little tern, and these new and additional protections to their feeding grounds, together with the development of a new strategy to protect our seabirds, will help the coastal environment recover, develop and, importantly, thrive.”