Strathglass Complex

Site details

UK map showing location of Strathglass Complex Special Area of Conservation/Site of Community Importance.
Location of Strathglass Complex 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

4010 Northern Atlantic wet heaths with Erica tetralix
Strathglass Complex has extensive northern Atlantic wet heaths of M15 Scirpus cespitosus – Erica tetralix wet heath with a wide range of sub-types representative of the western Scottish Highlands. The wet heaths are intermediate between examples on the hyper-oceanic western seaboard and Western Isles, those on the more continental Cairngorms, and those in the Northern Isles. Western Molinia-rich and flushed Myrica-Molinia sub-types are extensive and are associated with western 7130 Blanket bogs, 4030 European dry heaths and 91C0 Caledonian forest on the lower slopes. The site is especially notable for the extensive development of a northern form of wet heath at high altitude. These have abundant Cladonia lichens, woolly fringe-moss Racomitrium lanuginosum, alpine bearberry Arctostaphylos alpina, dwarf birch Betula nana and crowberry Empetrum nigrum, and are comparable only with wet heaths on the Cairngorms, north Hoy and Foinaven.
4060 Alpine and Boreal heaths
Strathglass is intermediate between heathland types of the east and the less extremely oceanic parts of the north-west. The Strathglass Complex has the second-largest area of Alpine and Boreal heaths in the SAC series, after the Cairngorms. The northern H17 Calluna vulgaris – Arctostaphylos alpinus community is well-represented, with the second most extensive development of this sub-type in the SAC series after Hoy. The site has one of the largest occurrences of the mainly north-western H20 Vaccinium myrtillus – Racomitrium lanuginosum heath, with a community structure similar in quality to that of Loch Maree Complex. Also present is the most extensive area of the characteristic eastern heathland type H13 Calluna vulgaris – Cladonia arbuscula heath to be found in the north-west, although lichen cover is not as high as on Ben Wyvis. In general, lichen cover is intermediate between the high cover of the east and generally low cover of the far west, while woolly fringe-moss Racomitrium lanuginosum is more abundant than in the east. These alpine heaths give way on the lower slopes to alpine forms of the oceanic H10 Calluna vulgaris – Erica cinerea and H21 Calluna vulgaris – Vaccinium myrtillus – Sphagnum capillifolium heaths, and the more eastern H12 Calluna vulgaris – Vaccinium myrtillus heath. On the lower slopes these latter heaths represent 4030 European dry heaths. Overall, the site has the largest extent of the Alpine and Boreal heaths in the north-west Highlands.
4080 Sub-Arctic Salix spp. scrub
Strathglass is the best representative in the SAC series of W20 Salix lapponum – Luzula sylvatica scrub on generally base-poor schist up to high altitude in the north-west Highlands. The Sub-Arctic Salix spp. scrub occurs in a series of localities in two widely separated corries, and scattered plants also occur in a few other places. The main occurrences are on ungrazed rock ledges, on steep rocky ground (including boulder fields) and on open slopes, where the willows are heavily grazed. Associated habitats are 6430 Hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities of plains and of the montane to alpine levels and herb-rich grassland. While downy willow Salix lapponum is the most widespread willow species, whortle-leaved willow S. myrsinites is also present.
6150 Siliceous alpine and boreal grasslands
The Affric-Cannich Hills within Strathglass Complex have the second-largest extent of Siliceous alpine and boreal grasslands in the UK, and are representative of the habitat type in the north-west Highlands. The rocks are generally acidic, with small areas of moderately base-rich rock. The dominant sub-types present are species-poor U10 Carex bigelowii – Racomitrium lanuginosum moss-heath and U7 Nardus stricta – Carex bigelowii grass-heath. Small areas of U8 Carex bigelowii – Polytrichum alpinum sedge-heath and U9 Juncus trifidus – Racomitrium lanuginosum rush-heath are also represented. There are extensive areas of the rarer species-rich Carex – Racomitrium moss-heath chiefly associated with the disturbed ground of solifluction terracing. This is enriched with arctic-alpine vascular plants and rare montane calcicole mosses. Associated communities include the most extensive areas of U13 Deschampsia cespitosa – Galium saxatile grassland in Britain. The moss- and dwarf-herb-dominated late-lie snow-beds (U11 Polytrichum sexangulare – Kiaeria starkei snow-bed, U12 Salix herbacea – Racomitrium heterostichum snow-bed and U14 Alchemilla alpina – Sibbaldia procumbens dwarf-herb community) are well-represented.
7130 Blanket bogs (* if active bog)  * Priority feature
Strathglass Complex encompasses much of the east–west gradient that occurs in blanket bog north of the Great Glen. Both wet, oceanic M17 Scirpus cespitosus – Eriophorum vaginatum blanket mire and the drier, more upland M19 Calluna vulgaris – Eriophorum vaginatum blanket mire occur extensively. Bog vegetation is at its most extensive on the lower slopes of these high hills, extending up glacial troughs and in to high corries and on to ridges. The blanket bog grades into a diversity of heathlands and grasslands on the better-drained upper slopes. The wetter M17 blanket mire forms part of typical west Highland complexes of bog, wet heath and dry heath but, unusually, also occurs within 91C0 Caledonian forest. At high altitudes Calluna vulgaris in M19 is replaced by other dwarf-shrubs such as crowberry Vaccinium vitis-idaea, cowberry Empetrum nigrum ssp. hermaphroditum and bog bilberry Vaccinium uliginosum. Notably, these include the scarce dwarf birch Betula nana and alpine bearberry Arctostaphylos alpinus at one of their few known locations in blanket bog outside Ben Wyvis.
8220 Siliceous rocky slopes with chasmophytic vegetation
Strathglass Complex has some of the most extensive outcrops of siliceous rock in the UK. This is one of eight sites representing this habitat in the western Highlands between Glen Coe in the south and Foinaven in the far north. A characteristic flora occurs up to very high altitude including parsley fern Cryptogramma crispa, three-leaved rush Juncus trifidus, least willow Salix herbacea, starry saxifrage Saxifraga stellaris, beech fern Phegopteris connectilis and the nationally rare Highland cudweed Gnaphalium norvegicum. Crevices in the more shady rocks support a flora of Atlantic mosses and liverworts.
91C0 Caledonian forest  * Priority feature
The Caledonian forest areas in Strathglass Complex are representative of the North Central biochemical region and are intermediate in type between the western and eastern geographic variants. The individual woodlands within the complex are some of the largest remaining intact stands of native pinewood in Scotland. Glens Strathfarrar and Affric are the most important pinewoods in the UK for the epiphytic lichen communities they support. A number of nationally rare lichen species occur in the woods, including Bryoria furcellata and Pannaria ignobilis. Birds typical of Caledonian forest, including capercaillie Tetrao urogallus and Scottish crossbill Loxia scotica, are represented. Interspersed amongst the forest habitat, areas of wetter peatland with scattered pine 91D0 Bog woodland are found.

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 Isoλto-Nanojuncetea
4030 European dry heaths
6430 Hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities of plains and of the montane to alpine levels
8110 Siliceous scree of the montane to snow levels (Androsacetalia alpinae and Galeopsietalia ladani)
8210 Calcareous rocky slopes with chasmophytic vegetation
91D0 Bog woodland  * Priority feature

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

Not applicable.

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

1355 Otter  Lutra lutra

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