The spiny seahorse lives in shallow coastal waters and can be recognised by its long snout (it’s also known as the long-snouted seahorse) and the appearance of a horse’s mane that runs along its back. It’s also an endangered species, with numbers in the wild being seriously impacted by boat anchoring and marine pollution.
Studland Bay has traditionally formed the ideal habitat for spiny seahorses, due to the seagrass that grows on its sandy seabed. As the spiny seahorse is a weak swimmer, it clings onto the seagrass with its tail, using it as an anchor to prevent itself being swept away.
It’s estimated that seagrass attracts 40 times more animals than bare sand, also making this a rich habitat and breeding ground for other creatures, such as cuttlefish, crabs and oysters. Remarkably, seagrass meadows capture far more CO2 than rainforests, making them hugely beneficial for the environment. However, seagrass itself is critically endangered, meaning that swift action is being taken to protect it.
In 2019, Studland Bay was designated a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ), meaning that it’s now officially recognised and protected. To further promote this valuable habitat, The Seahorse Trust and boatfolk have joined forces to install ten eco-moorings at Studland Bay. These use a screw and flexible elastic band arrangement as an alternative to traditional moorings, which scour the seabed and damage seagrass when chains and anchors are dropped.
Thanks to measures such as these, positive signs are emerging. In 2020, the largest number of spiny seahorses was recorded in Studland Bay in over a decade. Seagrass is beginning to repair itself, and the localised food chain is recovering.
If you’re keen to explore Studland Bay, it’s easy to reach on foot: a walk through the hotel gardens will take you to Middle Beach – one of the bay’s three beaches – in just a few minutes. Though you might not be able to see the spiny seahorses for yourselves (and you certainly shouldn’t try to seek them out, as they’re protected), there’s plenty to keep wildlife lovers happy here too.
The Studland Bay area is comprised of lowland heaths, sand dunes, grassland and wetland, meaning it welcomes a rich diversity of plants and animals. Its beaches are family friendly and gently shelving, making this an ideal place to relax, swim, and enjoy getting closer to nature.
What's more, Knoll House Hotel provides the perfect base to explore the local area. We often hold wildlife talks and workshops so do sign up to our newsletter to find out more about our events, visitors are very welcome, or take a look at our current Offers to book an overnight stay.