Sites of Special Scientific Interest
(SSSIs) can be notified if they include qualifying features under
the non-flowering plants criteria outlined in section 3 of the
1992 revision of Chapter 12 'Non-vascular
of the Guidelines for Selection of Biological
. In Northern Ireland, ASSIs are selected on a very
similar basis – the Guidelines
for the Selection of Biological ASSIs in Northern Ireland
addendum to the SSSI guidelines rather than an alternative.
The groups covered by these
guidelines are bryophytes (mosses, liverworts, and hornworts),
fungi, lichens and charophytes (non-marine algae, also known as
stoneworts). The guidance is designed to select sites
where there are important communities of lower plants, as well as
rare and more threatened species. Many sites will be selected
on the basis of habitat and vegetation types e.g. bogs. Other
sites consist of habitats characteristically dominated by
non-vascular plants (e.g. rock outcrops) or which may have
non-vascular plants as the major interest feature (e.g. woodlands
with the distinctive Lobarion pulmonariae lichen
Sites can be notified for individual
species for: species listed on Schedule 8 (plants) of the
Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, Red Data Book (RDB) species,
endemics, non-endemics threatened in Europe, and declining species
and species at the edge of their range.
Sites may also be notified for
combinations of species (bryophytes, lichens and charophytes)
reaching a threshold value based on a scoring system, which takes
account of: nationally rare, nationally scarce, Atlantic,
sub-Atlantic and western British bryophytes, and 'indicator'
(lichen and woodland bryophyte) species.
At present there are 37 bryophytes
(28 mosses, 9 liverworts and hornworts), 30 lichens, 2 stoneworts
and 4 fungi listed on Schedule 8 (plants) of the Wildlife and
Countryside Act, 1981. This schedule is reviewed at
five-yearly intervals, and therefore any additions or deletions
should be taken into consideration.
Under Annex II of the EC Habitats
Directive, the following non-flowering plants qualify as features
for the selection of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in the
UK: green shield-moss Buxbaumia viridis, western rustwort
Marsupella profunda (a priority species), slender green
feather-moss Drepanocladus (Hamatocaulis) vernicosus, and
petalwort Petalophyllum ralfsii.