|IPA Factsheet - Breadalbanes Mountains|
Site Description The Breadalbanes lie across the southern Grampians. The Breadalbanes Mountains IPA consists of a series of upland sites (all above 650 m) within the Breadalbanes. The underlying geology of all the sites includes bands of mineral-rich calcareous schists. Sites of this type are rare in Britain and these particular sites are among the richest botanical sites in Britain. The combination of high-altitude, late-lying snow and differing rock and soil types has led to a well-developed and wide range of alpine flora. Ben Lawers lies on the North side of Loch Tay, six kilometres east of Killin. The Lawers range forms the watershed between the Lyon and Tay valleys. The IPA covers the altitudinal range of 650 to 1214m of the Ben Lawers massif. The site is the best known of the series of arctic-alpine sites on calcareous Dalradian schist in Tayside, Stirling and Argyll: such sites are a rare type in Britain. The combination of the high altitude, late lying snow, widespread base rich rock and central geographical position has led to the development of a range of upland habitats. Ben Lawers supports important communities of insects, fungi and birds (golden eagle, peregrine, dotterel, golden plover and short-eared owl) associated with the various upland habitats. Ben Lawers has been acknowledged as a Geological Conservation Review Site. Ben Lui lies at the head of Glen Fyne and is the westernmost outlier of the Breadalbanes mountains. The IPA site includes five peaks: Ben Lui (1130 m), Ben Oss (1028 m), Beinn Dubhchraig (978 m), Beinn a’ Chleibh (917 m) and Meall nan Tighearn (739 m). As the most westerly site in the Breadalbanes mountains, Ben Lui experiences a wetter, more oceanic climate than the other mountains to the east. The typical montane calcicolous vascular plants and bryophytes of Breadalbane are well represented, however the Dalradian schists become progressively less calcareous above 760 m so that the strongly calcicolous vegetation occupies the middle level of the mountain, and at higher levels the vegetation becomes increasingly acidophilous adding to the exceptional biodiversity of the site. The characteristic montane invertebrate fauna of the Ben Lui range include at least five Red Data Book species. Ben Heasgarnich is located 14 km west of Killin and directly south of Loch Lyon. The elevation of the IPA ranges from 650 m to 1076 m (Ben Heasgarnich) and 650 m to 1032 m (Creag Mhor). Ben heasgarnich is one of the series of arctic-alpine sites on calcareous schist in the Breadalbane range. This scarce flora also supports an important invertebrate assemblage. Meall Ghaordie (1039 m) is a steep-sided mountain in Breadalbane, north of River Lochay and 8 km north-west of Killin. This site is important as another in the series of actic alpine sites on calcareous mica schist rocks in the southern Grampian Mountains. Meall Ghaordie differs from most of the Breadalbane range in having a large extent of acidophilous vegetation. The steep north-facing slopes of Creag Loaghain and Creag an Tulabhain (809 m) to the north of the site consist of extensive exposures of calcareous schist and limestone however, in contrast, on the southern side of Meall Ghaordie there are underlying acidic siliceous rocks from base to summit. Meall na Samhna (highest point 921 m) lies 9 km west of Killin. It is the only mountain in the Breadalbane range that retains the complete range of natural habitats and plant communities from river bank and broad-Leaved woodland on the lowest ground, through scrub, heath and grasslands on the middle slopes to montane plant communities at the mountain tops summits. Carn Gorm and Meall Garbh is an extensive upland massif situated on the north side of Glen Lyon along a ridge above the Rannoch area of Perthshire. The site includes a long crescent-shaped ridge, with a series of high summits lying close to its northern edge and broad ridges and converging valleys extending southwards. Carn Gorm itself is a relatively isolated summit (1 027 m) and Meall Garbh (960 m) is a broad central summit. The underlying geology is mainly quartz but bands of lime-rich mica-schists give rise locally to contrasting highly fertile soils which support an outstanding montane flora, chiefly on rock outcrops and in flushes. Schiehallion Schiehallion is a distinctive conical shaped mountain in central Perthshire and lying approximately six kilometres south east of the village of Kinloch Rannoch. Geologically the Schiehallion to Strath Fionan area is of international importance for its sequence of Dalradian rocks.
Botanical Significance Noted for lichens, vascular plants, habitat and bryophytes interest. Ben Lawers Ben Lawers is considered to be one of the best sites in the UK for alpine calcareous grassland and arctic-alpine willow scrub. The alpine and subalpine calcareous grasslands are the most extensive development in the UK, representing high-altitude forms of the habitat. The main sub-type, Festuca ovina – Alchemilla alpina – Silene acaulis dwarf-herb community, is found on the open hill, and is dominated by moss campion Silene acaulis. Dryas octopetala – Silene acaulis ledge community also occurs and is largely confined to crags because of heavy grazing pressure. The site has an exceptional arctic-alpine flora, including a wide range of characteristic species and many rarities. These include cyphel Minuartia sedoides, sibbaldia Sibbaldia procumbens, mountain pansy Viola lutea, alpine forget-me-not Myosotis alpestris, alpine fleabane Erigeron borealis, alpine gentian Gentiana nivalis, mountain sandwort Minuartia rubella, rock speedwell Veronica fruticans, blue moor-grass Sesleria caerulea, alpine meadow-grass Poa alpina, alpine pearlwort Sagina saginoides and alpine saxifrage Saxifraga nivalis. There are well-developed transitions to a wide range of other alpine plant communities, including snow-beds and alpine pioneer formations of the Caricion bicoloris-atrofuscae. Ben Lawers is one of four sites in the Breadalbane Mountains to be selected for its sub-arctic Salix spp. (mountain willow) scrub habitat. The site has the largest known population of S. arbuscula in the UK, developed on steep, rocky slopes and crags that are difficult for grazing animals to reach. It also occurs on some open grazed areas where it is highly prostrate. Ben Lawers also supports fragmentary stands of Salix lapponum – Luzula sylvatica scrub on calcareous schist at moderately high altitudes. Other willows are restricted to crags and rock ledges. Species include downy willow S. lapponum, dark-leaved willow S. myrsinifolia and net-leaved willow S. reticulata, together with scattered plants of woolly willow S. lanata. Hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities occur up to high altitudes on ledges of calcareous schist in the Breadalbane Mountains. Examples of the community occur in a number of localities across the Ben Lawers site and are relatively extensive in places. There is a diverse flora, which includes characteristic species such as roseroot Sedum rosea, water avens Geum rivale, wild angelica Angelica sylvestris, wood crane’s-bill Geranium sylvaticum, melancholy thistle Cirsium heterophyllum and globeflower Trollius europaeus. A number of rare arctic-alpines are present in the habitat type on this site, including the rock whitlowgrass Draba norvegica, alpine cinquefoil Potentilla crantzii, black alpine-sedge Carex atrata, alpine meadow-grass Poa alpina and alpine forget-me-not Myosotis alpestris. Ben Lawers is one of three sites in the Breadalbane range representing the range of variation of alpine pioneer formations up to high altitude. Ben Lawers is considered to be the most important site for this habitat type in the UK because the extent and diversity of high altitude mires present here is greater than on any other site in the UK. Carex saxatilis mires are especially frequent, with more open, stony Carex demissa – Saxifraga aizoides mires also common. The site supports the most abundant populations in Scotland of the rarer but characteristic species of the habitat type. These include two-flowered rush Juncus biglumis, bristle sedge Carex microglochin and scorched alpine-sedge C. atrofusca. Chestnut rush Juncus castaneus and hair sedge Carex capillaris are also frequent. Ben Lawers is representative of high-altitude calcareous rocky slopes with chasmophytic vegetation (plants in crevices on base-rich rocks) in the central Scottish Highlands. The rock faces are formed on calcareous schists and limestones outcropping extensively at very high altitude. The site supports extensive areas of chasmophytic vegetation with some of the most diverse examples of these communities in the UK. They contain a large number of nationally rare species, such as drooping saxifrage Saxifraga cernua, rock whitlowgrass Draba norvegica, alpine fleabane Erigeron borealis, alpine forget-me-not Myosotis alpestris, rock sedge Carex rupestris, alpine gentian Gentiana nivalis, mountain bladder-fern Cystopteris montana and alpine woodsia Woodsia alpina. The principal freshwater loch on Ben Lawers in the central Highlands is Loch nan Cat, which is representative of oligotrophic (low nutrient levels) standing waters and drains a calcareous schist catchment, a rare type in Britain. The loch is at high altitude (710 m), has a variety of substrates, is of very low nutrient status and supports a relatively diverse flora, including quillwort Isoetes lacustris, which is indicative of this oligotrophic freshwater habitat type. In addition, the flora includes several pondweed Potamogeton spp. and delicate stonewort Chara virgata. Many of the wide range of vascular plants on Ben Lawers are of national rarity. There are at least four species protected under Schedule 8 (alpine woodsia Woodsia alpina, alpine fleabane Erigeron borealis, snow/alpine gentian Gentiana nivalis, and drooping saxifrage Saxifraga cernua), a further 14 species or hybrids included in the British Red Data Book with an additional 36 species which are nationally scarce. These include a range of species types from the woody willow shrubs to the more delicate flowering plants such as the alpine forget-me-not Myosotis alpestris and mountain avens Dryas octopetala. Many species such as rock whitlowgrass Draba norvegica, the nationally scarce rock sedge Carex rupestris and the rare fern mountain bladder-fern Cystopteris montana favour the calcareous schists and limestones outcropping and are confined to the crags and inaccessible ledges as a consequence of heavy grazing pressures elsewhere. The site is also notified for and is considered to be the most important mountain in Britain for lichens and bryophytes. The bryophyte flora includes a total of over 350 species, including many nationally rare, as well as two Schedule 8 species (revolute hypnum moss Hypnum vaucheri and turgid scorpion-moss Scorpidium turgescens). Similarly Ben Lawers boasts a large number of lichens with over 450 species including many of which are nationally rare including 25 known in Britain only from this site e.g. rusty alpine psora Psora rubiformis. Ben Lui The mosaic of geology and habitats found at Ben Lui support an outstanding vascular plant assemblage, which include a number of rare and scarce montane calciculous species. In places, curtains of vegetation cover almost vertical rock faces and these exhibit a very fine development of tall-herb vegetation, with banks of different types of saxifrage, and some steep drier ledges support fragmentary examples of a moss-rich Dryas heath. The schists become progressively less calcareous above 760 m so that the stronger calciculous vegetation occupies the middle level of the mountain, and at higher levels the vegetation becomes increasingly acidophilous. At the highest altitudes there is an interesting range of late snow-bed vegetation much of it dominated by alpine bryophytes. On the slopes below and around the cliffs other communities are particularly well-developed. Calcareous flushes form a mosaic within the herb-rich grassland vegetation. The lower flanks away from the calcareous schist and limestone outcrops have a largely acidophilous vegetation. Ben Lui supports Salix lapponum – Luzula sylvatica scrub, occurring on highly calcareous schist at moderate altitude. The scrub is well-developed on an extensive series of schistose crags and rock ledges. Unlike at most other sites, the dominant species is whortle-leaved willow Salix myrsinites. This variant also occurs at Inchnadamph (where by contrast the scrub occurs at low altitude on limestone). Net-leaved willow S. reticulata is frequent, mainly associated with areas of calcareous grassland. Mountain willow S. arbuscula, tea-leaved willow S. phylicifolia and downy willow S. lapponum are also represented. The scrub has a rich flora and is associated with hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities of plains and of the montane to alpine levels and alpine and subalpine calcareous grasslands. Ben Lui is one of four sites selected in the Breadalbanes to represent high-altitude alpine and subalpine calcareous grasslands. Ben Lui has extensive areas of the open hill sub-type Festuca ovina – Alchemilla alpina – Silene acaulis dwarf-herb community. Dryas octopetala – Silene acaulis ledge community also occurs in profusion on steep, rocky ground. This supports an outstanding arctic-alpine flora, including alpine bartsia Bartsia alpina, mossy saxifrage Saxifraga hypnoides, cyphel Minuartia sedoides, rock sedge Carex rupestris, and hair sedge C. capillaris. The quality and diversity of this community and the range of transitions to other habitat types are similar to those on Ben Lawers, but less extensive. Ben Lui is representative of hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities occurring on calcareous schist up to high altitude. Ben Lui has a large number of examples of this habitat type, distributed widely across the site. Structure and function are well-developed and the communities are diverse. Characteristic species include roseroot Sedum rosea, wild angelica Angelica sylvestris, melancholy thistle Cirsium heterophyllum and globeflower Trollius europaeus, and a number of rare arctic-alpines, including alpine bartsia Bartsia alpina, alpine saw-wort Saussurea alpina, the lady’s-mantle Alchemilla wichurae, black alpine-sedge Carex atrata and rock sedge C. rupestris. Together with Glen Coe, Ben Lui represents the habitat type in the wetter and more oceanic west, where there is a greater frequency of species associated with wetter silts and dripping ledges, such as marsh hawk’s-beard Crepis paludosa, grass-of-Parnassus Parnassia palustris and bog orchid Hammarbya palustris. There is also a great luxuriance of ferns, including oak fern Gymnocarpium dryopteris, lemon-scented fern Oreopteris limbosperma, beech fern Phegopteris connectilis, holly-fern Polystichum lonchitis and hard shield-fern Polystichum aculeatum. In places hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities occur in an intimate mosaic with sub-arctic Salix spp. scrub, and there are well-developed transitions between them. Most of the species of Ben Lawers are present, except for some of the rarer montane species. The extent of the habitat type is at Ben Lui is similar to that on Ben Lawers. Ben Lui is one of three sites in the Breadalbane range representing the range of variation of alpine pioneer formations up to high altitude. High-altitude mires are frequent on the site and include both open types with Carex demissa– Saxifraga aizoides mire and more closed types with Carex saxatilis mire. The rare false sedge Kobresia simpliciuscula, Scottish asphodel Tofieldia pusilla, chestnut rush Juncus castaneus and two-flowered rush Juncus biglumis are present. The rare flush bryophytes Catoscopium nigritum, Meesia uliginosa, Timmia norvegica, Harpanthus flotovianus and Tritomaria polita are well-represented. Ben Lui represents calcareous rocky slopes with chasmophytic vegetation in an oceanic climate at the western end of the Breadalbane range. There is a wide band of calcareous schist forming crags at altitudes of 460-760 m on northerly slopes. The flora includes a number of rare montane calcicoles including mountain avens Dryas octopetala, hoary whitlowgrass Draba norvegica, mountain bladder-fern Cystopteris montana, alpine woodsia Woodsia alpina and net-leaved willow Salix reticulata. Ben Heasgarnich Ben Heasgarnich is particularly notable for its extensive cliff face, rocky outcrop and rich flush vegetation which contains many nationally- rare and nationally-scarce species. Ben Heasgarnich represents Sub-Arctic Salix spp. scrub up to high altitude (950 m) on highly to moderately calcareous schist. Salix lapponum – Luzula sylvatica scrub is widely-developed on the site, although it is virtually confined to crags and rock ledges, where the individual colonies of willows are small. The most abundant willow species are downy willow Salix lapponum, mountain willow S. arbuscula, whortle-leaved willow S. myrsinites and net-leaved willow S. reticulata. The scrub is associated with a rich flora of tall herbs and with stands of Alpine and subalpine calcareous grasslands. Ben Heasgarnich is the best representative for Siliceous alpine and boreal grassland of the Dalradian schist hills of the Breadalbane range. All the NVC types belonging to the habitat are represented, with Nardus stricta – Carex bigelowii grass-heath and Carex bigelowii – Racomitrium lanuginosum moss-heath being the predominant communities on the high ground of the summits and summit ridges. The underlying schists are base-rich and Ben Heasgarnich is primarily of importance for supporting the largest extent in the SAC series of species-rich Carex – Racomitrium moss-heath. This has an abundance of arctic-alpine species, such as moss campion Silene acaulis, mossy cyphel Minuartia sedoides, alpine bistort Persicaria vivipara and alpine meadow-rue Thalictrum alpinum. There are also some small but notably species-rich examples of late-lie snow-beds belonging to Alchemilla alpina – Sibbaldia procumbens dwarf-herb community. Moss-dominated snow-beds are well-represented but are of small extent. Ben Heasgarnich is one of four sites selected in the Breadalbane Hills of the southern Highlands to represent high-altitude Alpine and subalpine calcareous grasslands. Ben Heasgarnich has moderately extensive Festuca ovina – Alchemilla alpina – Silene acaulis dwarf-herb community on high corrie slopes. There are also some well-developed areas of high-altitude Dryas octopetala – Silene acaulis ledge community on steep, rocky slopes. The habitat type supports an outstanding arctic-alpine flora, with many rare species, including alpine mouse-ear Cerastium alpinum, hoary whitlowgrass Draba incana, cyphel Minuartia sedoides and hair sedge Carex capillaris. There are transitions to Species-rich Nardus grasslands, on siliceous substrates in mountain areas (and submountain areas in continental Europe) and to other alpine plant communities. Ben Heasgarnich has an extensive area of species-rich Nardus grassland. With Meall na Samhna and Ben Lui it contains the most species-rich and diverse examples of high-altitude grassland, and there is a rich arctic-alpine flora, including alpine bistort Persicaria vivipara, sheathed sedge Carex vaginata, the lady’s-mantle Alchemilla filicaulis and hair sedge Carex capillaris. There are transitions to floristically-rich Alpine and subalpine calcareous grasslands. These Nardus-rich grasslands are notable for supporting a large population of the mountain ringlet butterfly Erebia epiphron. Hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities of plains and of the montane to alpine levels. Diverse and well-developed examples of hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities occur across the Ben Heasgarnich site, with rarer arctic-alpines including rock whitlowgrass Draba norvegica, alpine mouse-ear Cerastium alpinum and black alpine-sedge Carex atrata. The site is unusual because, in places, plants characteristic of the ledge flora, such as lady’s-mantle Alchemilla glabra, water avens Geum rivale, wood crane’s-bill Geranium sylvaticum and globeflower Trollius europaeus, are found in moist grassland below the crags. Ben Heasgarnich is one of three sites in the Breadalbane range representing the range of variation of alpine pioneer formations up to high altitude. High-altitude mires are frequent on the site and include both open types of Carex demissa – Saxifraga aizoides mire and more closed types of Carex saxatilis mire. Rarer species present include scorched alpine- sedge Carex atrofusca, false sedge Kobresia simpliciuscula, variegated horsetail Equisetum variegatum, chestnut rush Juncus castaneus and two-flowered rush J. biglumis. Ben Heasgarnich has extensive calcareous schist outcrops with a wide range of characteristic chasmophytic plant species. Of particular interest is the very rare high-altitude crevice flora, which includes species such as green spleenwort Asplenium viride, brittle bladder fern Cystopteris fragilis, mountain bladder-fern Cystopteris montana, oblong woodsia Woodsia ilvensis, hoary willow grass Draba incana, alpine meadow grass Poa alpina, holly fern Polystichum lonchitis and rock whitlowgrass Draba norvegica. This is one of the most important sites in the UK for arctic-alpine flora because of the number of rare species present. The bryophyte feature of interest on the site is the assemblage of arctic-alpine calcicole mosses and liverworts on the crags, in the screes and in base-rich flushes. Habitats in Coire Sheasgarnaich and Coire Cheathaich on Creag Mhor are of particular interest. Areas of late snow-lie have only patchy areas of bryophyte-dominated vegetation but add further importance to the site. Twenty seven species within the rich bryophyte assemblage are rare or scarce in the rest of the UK including Cirriphyllum cirrosum, Hypnum bambergeri, Pseudoleskea incurvata, Pseudoleskeella rupestris, Didymodon icmadophilus, Brachythecium reflexum, Heterocladium dimorphum, Pseudoleskea incurvata and Ptychodium plicatum. Populations of the Scottish endemic Scottish beard-moss Bryoerythrophyllum caledonicum, and the large population of Odontoschisma macounii are of particular interest. On the crags and screes of Creag Mhor, the frequency of Himalayan fringe-moss Racomitrium himalayanum, a species that has its only European sites in the Breadalbane Hills, rivals that on Ben Lawers. The important lichen assemblage includes a large number of rare montane species associated with high ground, crags and corries, especially where there is some calcareous influence, such as limestone or mica schist exposures. Eighty-three species are scarce and thirty-nine rare elsewhere in the UK. Notable species include the endemic Halecania rhypodiza, as well as Solorina bispora, Stereocaulon plicatile, Polyblastia gothica, Peltigera elisabethae and Hooker’s matted lichen Pannaria hookeri. Meall Ghaordie The vegetation of the southern section of Meall Ghaordie where the soils are much more acidic differs from most of the Breadalbane range in having a large extent of acidophilous vegetation, including tall-herb communities dominated by great wood-rush Luzula sylvatica. These slopes are also characterised by patchy moorland dominated by heather Calluna vulgaris and mat grass Nardus stricta.. This heath dominates the drier, steeper better drained parts of the moorland. This dry heath grades into mat grass Nardus stricta dominated acid grassland throughout the moor. The remainder of the moorland is mainly blanket mire interspersed with bog on a few very wet areas. An unusual heather – heath rush Calluna – Juncus squarrosus grassland community occurs on the shallow blanket peat at high levels This wetter land has a wide community of sedge plants (including cotton grass Eriophorum angustifolium). Where the habitat becomes very wet Sphagnum is predominant together with other typical bog plants (bog asphodel Narthecium ossifragum and cross leaved heath Erica tetralix) creating the characteristic uneven nature of the land. The steep north-facing slopes of Creag Loaghain and Creag an Tulabhain to the north of the site, are largely dominated by a complex of herb-rich damp grasslands, and mostly calcareous (lime-rich) spring-fed fens (flushes) where calcium rich groundwater reaches the soil surface. The wet cliffs have an abundance of montane lime-loving plants which include the nationally scarce mountain bladder-fern Cystopteris montana, blue moor grass Sesleria caerulea, woolly willow Salix lanata and mountain willow Salix arbuscula and dwarf willow Salix reticulata. The cliff communities grade into herb-rich grasslands on the adjoining slopes. Meall Ghaordie is of particular interest as it includes many species remaining from the end of the last ice age including many arctic-alpine species. The site also records a number of uncommon plant species including several Red Data Book higher plant species (alpine bartsia Bartsia alpina, alpine fleabane Erigeron borealis, woolly willow Salix lanata, and rock speedwell Veronica fruticans) which are mainly restricted to the rock ledges, with alpine bartsia preferring the base rich outcrops. A number of nationally scarce higher plant species (e.g. mountain avens Dryas octopetala) as well as a number of nationally scarce alpine sedges (e.g. black alpine-sedge Carex atrata and rock sedge Carex saxatilis), the rare fern mountain bladder-fern Cystopteris montana and the nationally scarce horsetail Equisetum pratense, as well as a number of nationally scarce mosses, liverworts and lichens are also found on the site. Most of these species are found on lime-rich rock ledges. Meall na Samhna The montane willow communities on Meall na Samhna are unusually extensive and diverse. Salix lapponum – Luzula sylvatica scrub is present on highly calcareous schist at moderately high altitude (around 750 m). The wide range of species present is characteristic of calcareous schistose rock, and includes woolly willow Salix lanata, downy willow S. lapponum, whortle-leaved willow S. myrsinites, mountain willow S. arbuscula and net-leaved willow S. reticulata, which are mixed together. The willows are confined to rock ledges and occur in two main patches across a series of crags. They are mainly associated with hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities of plains and of the montane to alpine levels and Alpine and subalpine calcareous grasslands, with exceptionally rich suites of associated arctic-alpines. Meall na Samhna is one of four sites selected in the Breadalbane Hills represent high-altitude Alpine and subalpine calcareous grasslands. The Festuca ovina – Alchemilla alpina – Silene acaulis dwarf-herb community is moderately extensive, and there are some well-developed areas of Dryas octopetala – Silene acaulis ledge community on steep, rocky slopes. The habitat supports an outstanding arctic-alpine flora, which includes alpine bartsia Bartsia alpina, alpine mouse-ear Cerastium alpinum, alpine saw-wort Saussurea alpina, hair sedge Carex capillaris and net-leaved willow Salix reticulata. Species-rich Nardus grassland occurs widely below crags at moderately high to high altitude on calcareous-schist rocks. Festuca ovina – Agrostis capillaris – Alchemilla alpina grassland is the main community present. The site supports a rich flora of characteristic arctic-alpine species, including alpine meadow-rue Thalictrum alpinum, alpine bistort Persicaria vivipara, purple saxifrage Saxifraga oppositifolia, alpine mouse-ear chickweed Cerastium alpinum, lady’s mantle Alchemilla filicaulis, mossy saxifrage Saxifraga hypnoides, sibbaldia Sibbaldia procumbens and dwarf cudweed Gnaphalium supinum. There are widely-developed transitions to Alpine and subalpine calcareous grasslands and species-poor forms of Nardus grassland. The high altitude north-facing schist outcrops, along with the species-rich grassland immediately below the cliffs, flush complexes, boulders and burns, support an important assemblage of liverworts and mosses. A number of species recorded from the site are nationally rare, including Greville’s forklet moss Dicranella grevilleana, Timmia norvegica and Scottish Beard–moss Bryoerythrophyllum caledonicum. The lichen flora includes a number of rare montane, calcicole species, including Lempholemma radiatum, Stereocaulon tornense and Polyblastia terrestris, often associated with base rich rock outcrops and crags. The vascular plant assemblage includes the Red Data Book species alpine bartsia Bartsia alpina, woolly willow Salix lanata, mountain bladder fern Crytopteris Montana and alpine woodsia Woodsia alpina. It is the only site in the Breadalbane range for the nationally-rare wavy meadow-grass Poa flexuosa. Carn Gorm and Meall Garbh Most of the site takes in a diversity of more acidic montane communities, including snowbed and montane heaths, with large areas of high plateau which is better vegetated and less rocky than similar ground to the west. This high ground mosaic of communities is interesting as the only high, quartzite plateau vegetation in the southern highlands. There are also quite extensive flushes which being fed by lime-rich ground water and being at high altitude are species rich as well as calcareous grasslands. The vascular plant flora on this site is well-developed with a number of rare montane species such as alpine woodsia Woodsia alpina, alpine cinquefoil Potentilla crantzii and alpine fleabane Erigeon borealis; flushes are species-rich with false sedge Kobresia simpliciuscula and scorched alpine-sedge Carex atrofusca in places; and montane willows are well-represented but localised with species such as net-leaved willow Salix reticulata, mountain willow Salix arbuscula, downy willow Salix lapponum and whortle-leaved Salix myrsinites. The tall-herb communities which have developed on ledges protected from grazing contain plants such as red campion Silene dioica, globeflower Trollius europaeus, wood crane’s-bill Geranium sylvaticum, roseroot Rhodiola rosea, and holly fern Polystichum lonchitis. Schiehallion This site is important for the range of habitats associated with Dalradian limestone rocks. The habitat mosaic is particularly notable for its limestone pavement, sub-alpine calcareous grassland and springs (including flushes) as well as some areas of base-rich heath. These base-rich habitats also grade into much more acidic communities. The calcareous limestone grasslands are of a type known as ‘sugar’ limestone which have been highly metamorphosed and are similar to those of Upper Teesdale in north-east England. The grasslands are not so much important for their extent but because they are among the few examples of drier swards developed on limestone in Scotland. They contain lime loving plants including crested hair grass Koelerria macrantha, meadow oat grass Helictotrichon pratense, quaking grass Briza media, fairy flax Linum catharticum and common rockrose Helianthemum nummularium. Calcareous fens or flushes are associated with base-rich rocks and include at least two nationally scarce plants hair sedge Carex capillaris and alpine rush Juncus alpinoarticulatus. Other aspects of the upland habitat mosaic include montane vegetation, dry heaths, rich heaqth with bearberry and a number of uncommon and rare plants, including intermediate wintergreen Pyrola media and sibbaldia Sibbaldia.
General Habitat Description
Conservation Issues Ben Lawers In 2004 the montane assemblage as a whole of the SSSI site on Ben Lawers was considered to be in ‘favourable’ condition but a number of individual habitats are considered to be ‘unfavourable’ as a result of historic and current grazing levels. These include the tall herb communities (monitored 1999), alpine and sub-alpine calcareous grasslands (monitored 2009), and sub-arctic Salix spp scrub (monitored 2004). The extensive grasslands overlying Ben Lawers have been used as pasture for hundreds of years. Sheep grazing rights are privately owned and sheep husbandry plays a vital role in the viability of local farms. Deer stalking has been practised on the estate for more than a century and continues to be an important land-use and management tool today. Current levels of grazing by sheep and deer are confining plants intolerant of grazing to inaccessible ledges. There is currently a Section 7 deer management agreement over the site and surrounding areas to assist in the control of deer numbers for habitat management purposes. The bryophyte assemblage was assessed as ‘favourable declining’ in 2005. It was reported at this time that some of the flushes had high algal growth and it was postulated that this may be a result of eutrophication caused by high stocking levels on some parts of the site. It was also noted that some flushes were rather dry. Many thousands of visitors are attracted to Ben Lawers annually. Trampling by visitors has contributed to loss of vegetation, path erosion and scarring on the mountainside. Ben Lui Management of Ben Lui is difficult as the plant communities are in an intricate mosaic with each having different ideal management prescriptions. For many years, the site has been grazed extensively by sheep and further grazing pressure comes from the red deer which form the basis for the sporting management of parts of the area. In recent years however, one of the larger farm units has reduced its sheep flock and the vegetation in the area is in a state of dynamic change as a result of the reduced grazing pressure. The vascular plant assemblage on the Ben Lui SSSI site was assessed in 2011 as unfavourable but recovering. It is, however a delicate time for the vascular plant assemblage and grazing needs to be maintained at a level which does not damage the recovering plant populations. The condition of the upland habitats was assessed as: ‘unfavourable and declining’ for alpine and subalpine calcareous grasslands (2005) and sub-arctic Salix spp scrub (2005); ‘unfavourable and no change’ for alpine pioneer formations of the Caricion bicoloris-atrofuscae (1998); ‘unfavourable but recovering’ for the tall herb communities (2005) and ‘favourable maintained’ for the calcareous rocky slopes with chasmophytic vegetation (2005). The Ben LUI IPA includes four Munroe’s attracting walkers and mountaineers during all seasons. Low key signage has been developed at the main access points onto the NNR section of the site. altitude plant communities associated with areas of water seepage, montane acid grasslands, mountain willow scrub, snowbed, species-rich grassland with mat-grass in upland areas, tall herb communities and the vascular plant and lichen assemblages within the SSSI have all been assessed as being in ‘unfavourable condition’ (2004/2005). Public access and recreation is increasing. The site contains several high mountains including Ben Heasgarnich and Creag Mhor which are both Munroes and form part of a popular route from Glen Lochay. Meall Ghaordie The upland assemblage of habitats and the vascular plant assemblage within the SSSI were concluded to be in ‘favourable ‘condition in 2001 and 2005 respectively. While many of the rarer of the vascular plants are in precariously small populations, and are restricted by grazing to a few inaccessible ledges and rock outcrops, there is no clear evidence that the populations have reduced since SSSI notification. The site as a whole is grazed by sheep, red deer, rabbits and mountain hares except on the most inaccessible cliffs. Bracken is colonising the areas of better quality land on the lower regions of the site where grazing loss to livestock is most keenly felt. This has resulted in grazing density on other parts of the moorland having increased resulting in suppression of vegetation. Meall na Samhna The lichen and vascular plant assemblage on the site were assessed as being in ‘unfavourable (no change) condition’ in 2004 and 2003 respectively. The alpine and sub-alpine calcareous grasslands, montane acid grassland and species-rich grassland with mat grass in upland communities were also described as in ‘unfavourable’ (‘no change’) condition in 2004. The mountain willow habitatn was assessed as ‘unfavourable’ and ‘declining’ (2004). The site has a long history of deforestation, burning and sheep grazing. This has led to the development of grassland habitats at the expense of scrub, tall-herb and woodland. The majority of the site is used for extensive sheep husbandry and all but the most inaccessible crags have been grazed by sheep. At the time of most recent monitoring grazing levels were damaging even the grassland features. In recent years a reduction of sheep grazing has occurred through a combination of voluntary reduction and entry into Rural Priorities contracts. A reduction in grazing should result in the expansion of montane willow scrub and tall herb communities but needs to be carefully monitored to avoid detriment to the alpine grasslands and flushes. Deer stalking and grouse shooting also occur, as does recreational use by hill walkers, particularly on approaches to the ‘Munro’ at Sgiath Chuil. Carn Gorm and Meall Garbh Grazing impacts by sheep and deer collectively are, at least locally, moderate to high and on the lower slopes is creating a trend where heather moor is replaced by grassland. The same levels of grazing will restrict tall herb vegetation to inaccessible ledges and steeper ground. This trend if continued would, if continued, become an issue of concern. The upland assemblage of habitats has not yet been monitored in its own right but previous monitoring of some of the individual components showed signs of browsing impacts on the alpine and sub-alpine heaths, snowbed vegetation and calcareous grassland. The vascular plant assemblage was unfavourable due to small populations and lack of regeneration of some species, although these impacts may be a result of historical grazing patterns and further investigation is required. The presence of 4 Munros along a circular route within the site makes it popular with hillwalkers whose numbers as elsewhere, appear to have been increasing. This increase in polularitty for recreation in the Scottish hills along with itrs impact upon an increased deer cull, as well as the impact of path development on sensitive montane communities, are of concern to managers. Schiehallion The most recent site condition monitoring was carried out in 2007 and all features were found to be in ‘favourable maintained’; condition. In the grasslands there was evidence of very localised heavy grazing. The dry heath is only lightly grazed and the most of the grazing pressure is directed towards open flushes and calcareous grassland. The grassland needs a certain amount of grazing to prevent heath encroachment and the grazing levels appears appropriate for this. The flushes had some localised heavy trampling at one site, but otherwise were in good condition. Schiehallion attracts a large number of hill walkers each year. Most walkers follow a path constructed in 2003. The old path took a direct line to the summit and ridge and has been the subject of a John Muir Trust path restoration project and has gradually re-vegetated.