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Special Areas of Conservation

Glen Coe

Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Country Scotland
Unitary Authority Highlands and Islands
Centroid* NN151543
Latitude 56.64444444
Longitude -5.016666667
SAC EU Code UK0012959
Status Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Area (ha) 2967.37
* 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 Glen Coe SAC

General site character

  • Inland water bodies (Standing water, Running water) (1%)
  • Bogs, Marshes, Water fringed vegetation, Fens (1%)
  • Heath, Scrub, Maquis and Garrigue, Phygrana (18%)
  • Dry grassland, Steppes (37%)
  • Humid grassland, Mesophile grassland (9%)
  • Alpine and sub-Alpine grassland (8%)
  • Broad-leaved deciduous woodland (2%)
  • Inland rocks, Screes, Sands, Permanent Snow and ice (24%)

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

  • Glen Coe includes Loch Achtriochtan, representing oligotrophic lochs in the mountainous western Highlands of Scotland. The loch contains high-quality oligotrophic habitat with vegetation typical of nutrient-poor conditions on a substrate dominated by stones. The loch supports populations of shoreweed Littorella uniflora, quillwort Isoetes lacustris, water lobelia Lobelia dortmanna, awlwort Subularia aquatica and bulbous rush Juncus bulbosus, all characteristic of oligotrophic conditions. Stands of reed canary-grass Phalaris arundinacea are established at the western end of the loch and smooth stonewort Nitella flexilis has been recorded from the inflow. The surrounding semi-natural land use has protected the site from disturbance or eutrophication.

  • Glen Coe is the most southerly of five sites representing species-rich Nardus grasslands in the western Highlands, ranging up to the far north-west. On this site, species-rich Nardus grassland occurs on base-rich igneous rocks, calcareous-schists and base-enriched alluvial soils, and is found from moderately high to high altitudes. Both CG10 Festuca ovinaAgrostis capillarisThymus praecox grassland and CG11 Festuca ovinaAgrostis capillarisAlchemilla alpina grassland are well-represented. There is an unusual wet flushed grassland with an abundance of sedges, such as carnation sedge Carex panicea and flea sedge C. pulicaris, purging flax Linum catharticum, grass-of-Parnassus Parnassia palustris, fragrant orchid Gymnadenia conopsea, lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica and sea plantain Plantago maritima. The grasslands are enriched locally with the arctic-alpines yellow saxifrage Saxifraga aizoides, purple saxifrage S. oppositifolia, alpine meadow-rue Thalictrum alpinum and hair-sedge C. capillaris. Other northern species occurring more generally are viviparous sheep’s-fescue Festuca vivipara, northern bedstraw Galium boreale, lady’s-mantle Alchemilla glabra and mountain everlasting Antennaria dioica. There are transitions to western herb-rich bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus heath.

  • Glen Coe, in the western Highlands, contains hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities at a range of altitudes in an oceanic climate on igneous rocks, including calcareous andesites and limestone, which support the richest flora. This habitat type shows well-developed structure and high species diversity. Characteristic species include roseroot Sedum rosea, wild angelica Angelica sylvestris, common valerian Valeriana officinalis, hogweed Heracleum sphondylium, mountain melick Melica nutans, lesser meadow-rue Thalictrum minus and melancholy thistle Cirsium heterophyllum. The habitat type is similar to that on Ben Lui, with a good representation of ferns, including brittle bladder-fern Cystopteris fragilis, polypody Polypodium vulgare, beech fern Phegopteris connectilis and holly-fern Polystichum lonchitis. Some crags have running water with an unusual abundance of common scurvygrass Cochlearia officinalis, and other species of wet crags are well-represented, including opposite-leaved golden-saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium, grass-of-Parnassus Parnassia palustris and marsh hawk’s-beard Crepis paludosa. On Meall Mór there are transitions to 4080 Sub-Arctic Salix spp. scrub with whortle-leaved willow Salix myrsinites.

  • Glen Coe is representative of communities on siliceous scree derived from igneous rocks at a range of altitudes in the western Scottish Highlands. The characteristic species parsley fern Cryptogramma crispa occurs throughout the site, and tends to be found with alpine lady-fern Athyrium distentifolium in snowy corries at high altitude (U18). There is an abundance of ferns on the boulder screes within the site. These include lemon-scented fern Oreopteris limbosperma, and a number of oceanic species such as Wilson’s filmy-fern Hymenophyllum wilsonii. Atlantic mosses and liverworts such as Anastrophyllum donianum and Scapania nimbosa are also abundant in screes on steep, shady, humid slopes. The rare Highland saxifrage Saxifraga rivularis occurs in springs and flushes amongst high-altitude scree.

  • Glen Coe represents Calcareous rocky slopes with chasmophytic vegetation through its base-rich outcrops from moderate to high altitude including limestone and calcareous schists on Meall Mór and lime-rich bands in igneous rocks on Bidean nam Bian. The flora includes the rare saxifrages drooping saxifrage Saxifraga cernua and alpine saxifrage S. nivalis and other rare montane species include mountain bladder-fern Cystopteris montana, green spleenwort Asplenium viride, holly fern Polystichum lonchitis, glaucous meadow-grass Poa glauca and hoary whitlowgrass Draba norvegica. Other calcicoles occurring on rock include lesser meadow-rue Thalictrum minus.

  • Glen Coe is representative of high-altitude Siliceous rocky slopes with chasmophytic vegetation in west Scotland. The habitat type is developed on massive outcrops of siliceous igneous rocks with crags up to very high altitude. The rock type varies across the site, leading to variation in the plant species. The crags support many of the commoner arctic-alpine species of acidic rocks, which are widespread across the site. The very rare drooping saxifrage Saxifraga cernua occurs in small pockets of calcareous material within predominantly acidic rocks, together with such species as brittle bladder-fern Cystopteris fragilis, roseroot Sedum rosea and mountain sorrel Oxyria digyna. The fern flora of this site is extremely diverse and westerly influences on the site are shown by the extensive development of oceanic bryophytes associated with the crags.

Annex I habitats present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for selection of this site

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

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