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Special Areas of Conservation

Ben Lawers

Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Country Scotland
Unitary Authority Eastern Scotland
Centroid* NN633424
Latitude 56.55416667
Longitude -4.225
SAC EU Code UK0012895
Status Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Area (ha) 5026.11
* This is the approximate central point of the SAC. In the case of large, linear or composite sites, this may not represent the location where a feature occurs within the SAC.
Location of Ben Lawers SAC

General site character

  • Inland water bodies (Standing water, Running water) (0.5%)
  • Bogs, Marshes, Water fringed vegetation, Fens (14%)
  • Heath, Scrub, Maquis and Garrigue, Phygrana (24%)
  • Dry grassland, Steppes (38%)
  • Humid grassland, Mesophile grassland (12%)
  • Alpine and sub-Alpine grassland (10%)
  • Broad-leaved deciduous woodland (0.5%)
  • Inland rocks, Screes, Sands, Permanent Snow and ice (1%)

Download the Standard Data Form for this site as submitted to Europe (PDF <100kb)

Note 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

  • The principal freshwater loch on Ben Lawers in the central Highlands is Loch nan Cat, which is representative of oligotrophic 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 (Type 3) 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.

  • Ben Lawers is one of four sites selected in the Breadalbane Hills of the southern Highlands and represents Sub-Arctic Salix spp. scrub with mountain willow Salix arbuscula. 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 W20 Salix lapponumLuzula 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. Generally the Salix scrub is associated with 6430 Hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities of plains and of the montane to alpine levels or 6170 Alpine and subalpine calcareous grasslands.

  • Ben Lawers has the most extensive development of Alpine and subalpine calcareous grasslands in the UK, representing high-altitude forms of the habitat. The main sub-type, CG12 Festuca ovinaAlchemilla alpinaSilene acaulis dwarf-herb community, is found on the open hill, and is dominated by moss campion Silene acaulis. CG14 Dryas octopetalaSilene 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 7240 Alpine pioneer formations of the Caricion bicoloris-atrofuscae.

  • Ben Lawers is located in the Breadalbane range in the southern Scottish Highlands where hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities occur up to high altitudes on ledges of calcareous schist. Examples of the community occur in a number of localities across the 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 in the southern Scottish Highlands 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. M12 Carex saxatilis mires are especially frequent, with more open, stony M11 Carex demissaSaxifraga 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 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 montane calcicole bryophyte and lichen flora of this site is outstanding.

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

  • Not Applicable

Many designated sites are on private land: the listing of a site in these pages does not imply any right of public access.