North Harris

Site details

UK map showing location of North Harris Special Area of Conservation/Site of Community Importance.
Location of North Harris SAC/SCI/cSAC


When undertaking an appropriate assessment of impacts at a site, all features of European importance (both primary and non-primary) need to be considered.

Annex I habitats that are a primary reason for selection of this site

3160 Natural dystrophic lakes and ponds
North Harris is representative of dystrophic lochans on 7130 Blanket bogs and heathland in a mountain environment that experiences a strong oceanic influence. The naturally dystrophic waterbodies tend to be small un-named dubh lochans which are highly acidic, of very low productivity and support an impoverished flora and fauna typical of this habitat. The lochans typically contain a peat or silt substrate that supports bulbous rush Juncus bulbosus and bogbean Menyanthes trifoliata. The lochans are also characterised by the presence of bog-mosses Sphagnum spp.
4010 Northern Atlantic wet heaths with Erica tetralix
North Harris represents Northern Atlantic wet heaths with Erica tetralix in the Outer Hebrides, and provides examples of the most extreme oceanic forms of wet heath in the UK and possibly Europe. The habitat is closest in its floristics to M15 Scirpus cespitosusErica tetralix wet heath. In the most extensive development of this habitat, woolly fringe-moss Racomitrium lanuginosum is characteristically abundant, along with bell heather Erica cinerea (usually characteristic of dry heath) and Atlantic mosses and liverworts. The latter are more prominent here than on any other wet heath site. A highly acidic flushed form of wet heath is frequent, with an abundance of the rare Atlantic moss Campylopus shawii. Wet heath is one of the main elements in the vegetation cover, and is proportionally more extensive than anywhere else in the UK. Wet heath on Harris is not confined to wet hollows or gentle slopes but runs up moderately steep slopes to around 30° or more. There are also transitions to 4030 European dry heath, 7130 Blanket bogs and grassland.
6150 Siliceous alpine and boreal grasslands
North Harris represents an outlier of Siliceous and alpine boreal grassland on the Outer Hebrides in the far north-west of the UK. Two NVC types are present (U10 Carex bigelowiiRacomitrium lanuginosum moss-heath and U7 Nardus strictaCarex bigelowii grass-heath), representing respectively the chionophobous and chionophilous aspects of the habitat in the Outer Hebrides. The mat-grass Nardus snow-beds are only moderately extensive, but CarexRacomitrium moss-heath has one of its largest extents outside of the Cairngorms, demonstrating its dominance at higher levels in the cool, oceanic climate.

Annex I habitats present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for selection of this site

3130 Oligotrophic to mesotrophic standing waters with vegetation of the Littorelletea uniflorae and/or of the Isoëto-Nanojuncetea
4030 European dry heaths
4060 Alpine and Boreal heaths
7130 Blanket bogs (* if active bog)  * Priority feature
7150 Depressions on peat substrates of the Rhynchosporion
8110 Siliceous scree of the montane to snow levels (Androsacetalia alpinae and Galeopsietalia ladani)
8220 Siliceous rocky slopes with chasmophytic vegetation

Annex II species that are a primary reason for selection of this site

1029 Freshwater pearl mussel  Margaritifera margaritifera
North Harris includes two rivers that support high quality, functional freshwater pearl mussel Margaritifera margaritifera populations. One of the rivers contains the most important Western Isles population and is therefore the most significant pearl mussel component of the site. The other river also has a significant functional population, but the relatively low number of juveniles indicates that recruitment may be limited. The two rivers represent the north-western extremity of the species’ range in the UK and Europe.

Annex II species present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for site selection

1106 Atlantic salmon  Salmo salar
1355 Otter  Lutra lutra

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