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Special Areas of Conservation

4040 Dry Atlantic coastal heaths with Erica vagans

Temperate heath and scrub

Description and ecological characteristics

This priority habitat type comprises coastal heaths on well-drained, moderately base-rich soils in areas with a warm oceanic climate. In the UK, it is usually found on soils derived from serpentine.

British examples of this habitat type correspond to NVC type H6 Erica vagans – Ulex europaeus heath. The vegetation is typically dominated by mixtures of Cornish heath Erica vagans and gorse Ulex europaeus, with smaller amounts of western gorse U. gallii and bell heather E. cinerea. Associated species include mesophytic herbs, such as glaucous sedge Carex flacca, common milkwort Polygala vulgaris, betony Stachys officinalis and common dog-violet Viola riviniana. The heath varies in terms of the height and cover of the sub-shrub canopy, and the richness and composition of the associated flora. This variation is related to management treatments (especially grazing and burning) and soil conditions.

Stands of this distinctive form of dry heath often grade into forms of 4010 Northern Atlantic wet heaths with Erica tetralix in which E. vagans is abundant (NVC type H5 Erica vagans – Schoenus nigricans heath). They may also form mosaics with other forms of dry heath and with maritime heath.

Distribution of SACs/SCIs/cSACs with habitat 4040 Dry Atlantic coastal heaths with Erica vagans. Click image for enlarged map.

European status and distribution

In mainland Europe, Dry Atlantic coastal heaths with Erica vagans occur very locally in Brittany and in the Basque country in France and Spain.

UK status and distribution

In the UK, Dry Atlantic coastal heaths with Erica vagans occur on one site, the Lizard, in the extreme south-west of England, where its total extent is less than 1,000 ha.

Click here view UK distribution of this species

Site accounts

  • The Lizard Cornwall and Isles of Scilly
    All good-quality areas of dry Atlantic coastal heaths with Erica vagans on the Lizard peninsula in south-west England are included in this site. The full range of structural and floristic variation within NVC type H6 Erica vagansUlex europaeus heath is covered, ranging from cliff-top heaths rich in maritime species, such as spring squill Scilla verna, to more inland heaths containing abundant bristle bent Agrostis curtisii.

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