Habitat account - Temperate heath and scrub


4020 Temperate Atlantic wet heaths with Erica ciliaris and Erica tetralix  * Priority feature

Background to selection

Distribution of SACs/SCIs/cSACs with habitat 4020 Temperate Atlantic wet heaths with Erica ciliaris and Erica tetralix.  Click image for enlarged map.
Distribution of SACs/SCIs/cSACs with habitat 4020 Temperate Atlantic wet heaths with Erica ciliaris and Erica tetralix. Click image for enlarged map.

Description and ecological characteristics

 

Heathlands containing cross-leaved heath Erica tetralix and the nationally rare Dorset heath E. ciliaris are generally found on acid soils with slightly impeded drainage, although in Cornwall they extend onto dry soils. The abundance of E. ciliaris differentiates this habitat from other Annex I heath types.

 

Temperate Atlantic wet heaths with Erica ciliaris and Erica tetralix often contain heather Calluna vulgaris and varying proportions of bell heather Erica cinerea. Other associated species include purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea, bristle bent Agrostis curtisii and dwarf gorse Ulex minor, with the latter being replaced by western gorse U. gallii in south-west England. This habitat type is not recognised as a distinct community in the NVC. It includes forms of the following communities in which E. ciliaris is abundant:

 

     

  • H3  Ulex minor Agrostis curtisii heath
  • H4  Ulex gallii Agrostis curtisii heath
  • M16  Erica tetralix Sphagnum compactum wet heath
  • M21  Narthecium ossifragum Sphagnum papillosum valley mire

 

These heathlands may grade into wetter heath and bog communities, notably valley mires with bog-moss Sphagnum spp. and bog asphodel Narthecium ossifragum.

European status and distribution

 

Temperate Atlantic wet heaths with Erica ciliaris and Erica tetralix are characteristic of the western Mediterranean region and within the EU are found in France, Spain and Portugal.

UK status and distribution Click to view UK distribution of this habitat

 

This form of heathland is confined to warm, oceanic locations in the UK. It is a rare habitat, occurring naturally only in Dorset and Cornwall.

Site selection rationale

 

All sites that contain extensive examples of this priority habitat type with good conservation of structure and function have been selected. The SAC series contains a very high proportion of the total UK resource, and fully represents the geographical range and ecological variation of the habitat.

 

The single known Erica ciliaris site in Devon, at an altitude of 400 m on Dartmoor, has not been selected because it is atypical and it is suspected that E. ciliaris is an introduction there.


Site accounts

Carrine Common Cornwall
Carrine Common has a large area of Dorset heath Erica ciliaris and is important for the representation of the full geographical distribution of temperate Atlantic wet heaths. This site also takes account of the ecological variation of the habitat type, as E. ciliaris at Carrine Common occurs on soils that appear to be more free-draining than is usually the case in Dorset and elsewhere in Cornwall. The occurrence of this habitat type under such conditions is thought to reflect the highly oceanic climate of Cornwall.
Dorset Heaths (Purbeck and Wareham) and Studland Dunes Dorset
The greatest concentration of Dorset heath Erica ciliaris in the UK is in Dorset on the heaths south of Poole Harbour, with outlying stands elsewhere in Dorset. Dorset Heaths (Purbeck and Wareham) and Studland Dunes has therefore been selected as it contains a high proportion of the total UK population of E. ciliaris.
Godrevy Head to St Agnes Cornwall
This site is characterised by maritime 4030 European dry heaths, but along the Chapel Porth valley it supports stands of Dorset heath Erica ciliaris. At this site the species occurs on drier substrates than in Dorset.
Newlyn Downs Cornwall
Newlyn Downs has the largest area in Cornwall of heath rich in Dorset heath Erica ciliaris. A significant proportion of the E. ciliaris occurs in wetter situations than at Carrine Common. The sites selected for E. ciliaris heath in Cornwall, where the habitat type is rarer and more fragmented than in Dorset, are important for the representation of the full geographical distribution of Temperate Atlantic wet heaths with Erica ciliaris and Erica tetralix.

SACs/SCIs/cSACs where this Annex I habitat is a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for site selection

Not applicable.
 

Many designated sites are on private land: the listing of a site in these pages does not imply any right of public access.