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Special Areas of Conservation


Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Country Scotland
Unitary Authority Highlands and Islands
Centroid* NC336495
Latitude 58.40277778
Longitude -4.847222222
SAC EU Code UK0013141
Status Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Area (ha) 14853.66
* 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 Foinaven SAC

General site character

  • Inland water bodies (Standing water, Running water) (4%)
  • Bogs, Marshes, Water fringed vegetation, Fens (40%)
  • Heath, Scrub, Maquis and Garrigue, Phygrana (30%)
  • Alpine and sub-Alpine grassland (6%)
  • Broad-leaved deciduous woodland (1%)
  • Inland rocks, Screes, Sands, Permanent Snow and ice (19%)

Download the Standard Data Form for this site (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

  • Foinaven supports a gradient of high-quality freshwater loch habitats including Oligotrophic to mesotrophic standing waters. The oligotrophic waterbodies range from dubh lochans to relatively large lochs on the lower moors, all of which are part of small unproductive catchments typical of the north-west Scottish Highlands. The majority of these lochs are undisturbed, with a high degree of naturalness. The lochs support populations of shoreweed Littorella uniflora, quillwort Isoetes lacustris, water lobelia Lobelia dortmanna, awlwort Subularia aquatica, bulbous rush Juncus bulbosus and floating water bur-reed Sparganium angustifolium, all characteristic of oligotrophic conditions.

  • Foinaven in the north-west Highlands of Scotland supports dystrophic lochs and lochans formed in upland bogs. The ponds are generally small (<1 ha), un-named waterbodies and are located on the blanket bogs formed over most of the flat gneiss terrain and on the terraces alongside the River Dionard. The lochs support an impoverished flora that typically includes bog-mosses Sphagnum spp. and bogbean Menyanthes trifoliata.

  • Foinaven is representative of the range of northern Atlantic wet heaths in the more highly oceanic and cool parts of the north-west Scottish Highlands. This site has one of the largest extents of M15 Scirpus cespitosusErica tetralix wet heath within the SAC series. It includes the best example in the north-west Highlands of Cladonia-rich wet heath with an abundance of woolly fringe-moss Racomitrium lanuginosum and the large Atlantic liverwort Pleurozia purpurea (comparable with the same sub-type on North Harris but not as rich in Atlantic bryophytes). In the harsh climate high on quartzite plateaux there is an outstanding montane flora, including mountain everlasting Antennaria dioica, arctic bearberry Arctostaphylos alpinus, bearberry Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, alpine clubmoss Diphasiastrum alpinum, common juniper Juniperus communis ssp. nana, trailing azalea Loiseleuria procumbens and the lichen Cetraria islandica. More typical wet heath rich in deergrass Trichophorum cespitosum or purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea occurs on the lower ground, where the flora includes the bog-moss Sphagnum capillifolium, lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica and heath milkwort Polygala serpyllifolia. There is also good representation of flushed wet heath with carnation sedge Carex panicea, bog asphodel Narthecium ossifragum, common cottongrass Eriophorum angustifolium, black bog-rush Schoenus nigricans and Sphagnum denticulatum.

  • The dry heath developed on Foinaven is representative of the more extreme hyper-oceanic north-western kinds of European dry heaths, similar to the Loch Maree Complex. Dry heath is not extensive because of the predominance of wet heath even on relatively steep slopes and the rocky nature of the very steep slopes suitable for dry heath. Burning on the steeper slopes has also restricted the extent of floristically-rich heaths. H10 Calluna vulgarisErica cinerea and H21 Calluna vulgarisVaccinium myrtillusSphagnum capillifolium heath predominate, though a small extent of H12 Calluna vulgarisVaccinium myrtillus heath is represented on upper slopes. The most important feature of the site is the second-largest area of the Atlantic bryophyte-rich Mastigophora woodsiiHerbertus aduncus ssp. hutchinsiae sub-type of H21 CallunaVacciniumSphagnum heath in the SAC series. This holds good examples of the northern Atlantic hepatic mat with an abundance and wide range of northern-oceanic leafy liverworts. CallunaErica heath occurs in the form typical of the north-west with an abundance of woolly fringe-moss Racomitrium lanuginosum, especially at higher altitudes. The dry heaths grade into a wide range of 4060 Alpine and Boreal heaths and to 4010 Northern Atlantic wet heaths with Erica tetralix, contributing to outstanding north-western heathland complexes.

  • Foinaven is representative of the characteristic and rarer Alpine and Boreal heaths that occur in the more highly oceanic parts of north-west Scotland. These include extensive examples of very local heath types, which are restricted to a few sites in this area. H20 Vaccinium myrtillusRacomitrium lanuginosum heath and H14 Calluna vulgarisRacomitrium lanuginosum heath occur extensively within the site. The former community is especially extensive, occurring over the huge areas of quartzite rock debris on the summit ridges. The site has the second-largest extent of H15 Calluna vulgarisJuniperus communis ssp. nana heath in the UK, not far short of its extent at the Loch Maree Complex. This heath has an abundant and diverse assemblage of characteristic Atlantic liverworts and mosses that is unique to the British Isles.

  • Foinaven is representative of hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities in the north of Scotland, where the habitat type is rare. It is the best example in this area because of the extensive development of the communities and the range of unusual types of rocks on which they occur, such as calcareous serpulite grits and fucoid beds, as well as calcareous schists. Because of the low altitude the flora is not as rich as at sites further south in the Highlands. Characteristic species include the lady’s-mantle Alchemilla glabra, wild angelica Angelica sylvestris, water avens Geum rivale, globeflower Trollius europaeus and roseroot Sedum rosea. Rarer arctic-alpines on the site include alpine saw-wort Saussurea alpina, alpine saxifrage Saxifraga nivalis and holly-fern Polystichum lonchitis.

  • Foinaven represents highly acid screes, made up mainly of quartzite, in the far north-west Highlands. The extensive quartzite screes are very species-poor. However, there is a flora of Atlantic bryophytes associated with block screes at high altitudes. There is an important crustose lichen assemblage on the rocks.

  • Foinaven in north-west Scotland is the most northerly site selected for Siliceous rocky slopes with chasmophytic vegetation. The site has a cool oceanic climate and the crevice communities are developed widely on extensive outcrops of quartzite, Lewisian gneiss and schist, which occur from low to moderately high altitude. Characteristic species that occur are black spleenwort Asplenium adiantum-nigrum, fir clubmoss Huperzia selago and starry saxifrage Saxifraga stellaris, while rarer species, such as rock whitlowgrass Draba norvegica, and oceanic ferns, such as Wilson’s filmy-fern Hymenophyllum wilsonii, with associated oceanic bryophytes, may occur.

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

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