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Special Areas of Conservation


Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Country Scotland
Unitary Authority North Eastern Scotland
Centroid* NO199897
Latitude 56.99166667
Longitude -3.318333333
SAC EU Code UK0030030
Status Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Area (ha) 1882.37
* 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 Ballochbuie SAC

General site character

  • Bogs, Marshes, Water fringed vegetation, Fens (13%)
  • Heath, Scrub, Maquis and Garrigue, Phygrana (36%)
  • Humid grassland, Mesophile grassland (1%)
  • Broad-leaved deciduous woodland (1%)
  • Coniferous woodland (48%)
  • Inland rocks, Screes, Sands, Permanent Snow and ice (1%)

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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

  • Ballochbuie supports one of the largest remaining continuous areas of native 91C0 Caledonian forest, situated on the slopes of the Dee valley below the foothills of the Lochnagar massif. Mostly within the former limits of the forest, the site also supports extensive areas of dry heath, along with smaller areas of wet heath. The European dry heath comprises representative examples of the characteristic communities of north-east Scotland, i.e. NVC types H12 Calluna vulgarisVaccinium myrtillus heath and H16 Calluna vulgarisArctostaphylos uva-ursi heath. Forms of H21 Calluna vulgarisVaccinium myrtillusSphagnum capillifolium heath are also represented, especially in open areas within the forest. Small stands of juniper Juniperus communis (a non-qualifying feature at this site) are found along the upper margins of the forest. On ridges and hill-tops, the dry heath grades to subalpine heaths. Close to the forest, interrupted clubmoss Lycopodium annotinum occurs locally in the heath, along with cloudberry Rubus chamaemorus. Heathy glades in the forest are locally enriched with species such as nodding melick Melica nutans and stone bramble Rubus saxatilis.

  • Situated on the north slopes of the Dee valley below the foothills of the Lochnagar massif, the geology at Ballochbuie is mostly dominated by granites of various degrees of acidity. In the west of the site it is more complex with various outcrops of metamorphic rocks, the most prominent of which is the vertical outcrop of calcareous rock known as the Lion’s Face. On the hillside above the face, further outcrops of calcareous rock give rise to small areas of CG10 Festuca ovinaAgrostis capillarisThymus praecox grassland and open birch woodland, contrasting with the Scots pine Pinus sylvestris woodland over most of the rest of the site. Alpine cinquefoil Potentilla crantzii is present on these outcrops. Closer to the cliffs of the Lion’s Face, small areas of scrub and more extensive plantations provide additional shade. Here, rock faces, crevices and boulders support communities of ferns, and, in particular, lichens and bryophytes. Ferns include green spleenwort Asplenium viride and Wilson’s filmy-fern Hymenophyllum wilsonii. A large number of rare lichens are present including a species normally associated with elm, Gyalecta ulmi, and Chaenotheca gracilenta (both Endangered). The moss Pseudoleskeella rupestris (Nationally rare) also occurs.

  • Situated on the north slopes of the Dee valley below the foothills of the Lochnagar massif, the geology at Ballochbuie is dominated by granites of various degrees of acidity, but with complex of siliceous and calcareous metamorphic rocks in the west of the site, in the vicinity of the Lion’s Face and Creag Clunie. Cliffs of siliceous rocks occur in various parts of the site, both within and above the 91C0 Caledonian forest which is the dominant habitat on the site. These cliffs give rise to areas of block scree. These rocky slopes support a number of specialised bryophytes and, in particular, lichens, along with occasional ferns. At the Lion’s Face the assemblage of lichens associated with siliceous rocks contrasts with the adjacent calcareous rocky slopes. Rare species, such as Protoparmelia nephaea and Umbilicaria nyladeriana (both Nationally rare) are present, along with two recently-described species. Stabilised block screes and associated outcrops on Creag Clunie also support a number of rare lichens, such as Lecanora cenisia and Pyrrhospora rubigans (both Nationally rare). Rare mosses are also present including Cynodontium polycarpon (Vulnerable) and Grimmia incurva (Nationally scarce).

  • 91C0 Caledonian forest  * Priority feature

    This large intact Caledonian forest area is representative of the North East biochemical region. It is the second-largest pine woodland in the region. Although genetically representative of the North East region in which it occurs, ecologically it may be considered as part of the adjacent Cairngorms complex. The forest is dominated by even-aged mature pine, mostly aged between 150–300 years, with the typical pinewood vegetation types, and locally a juniper Juniperus shrub layer. Characteristic species, such as twinflower Linnaea borealis and serrated wintergreen Orthilia secunda occur in the field layer. The site also locally supports unusual herb-rich pinewood vegetation, similar to that seen at Mar Lodge in the Cairngorms. It is well-known for its important populations of northern birds which include capercaillie Tetrao urogallus and Scottish crossbill Loxia scotica. Areas of 91D0 Bog woodland are present within the forest. 4030 European dry heath is present locally within, and more extensively above, the forest, along with smaller areas of 7130 Blanket bog and 4010 Northern Atlantic wet heath.

  • 91D0 Bog woodland  * Priority feature

    The forest mires at Ballochbuie, including representative stands of bog woodland, collectively form one of the largest examples of this habitat in a native pinewood in the UK. Ballochbuie forms one of the largest continuous areas of 91C0 Caledonian forest in Scotland, situated on the slopes of the Dee valley below the foothills of the Lochnagar massif. Here, amongst extensive stands of native Scots pine Pinus sylvestris scotica, variation in drainage patterns has resulted in the local suppression of pine in favour of peat-forming species, allowing peat to accumulate in hollows and along some valleys. In contrast to the prevailing high-forest on the adjacent slopes, these mires are dominated by mixtures of bog-mosses Sphagnum spp., cottongrasses Eriophorum spp. and heather Calluna vulgaris, forming M18 Erica tetralixSphagnum papillosum mire and M19 Calluna vulgarisEriophorum vaginatum mire, with a sparse to open cover of variably stunted pine. The largest of the wooded mires is Mòine Chruinn in the Connachat valley, which comprises two areas of bog on either side of the valley, within a larger area of fen, all of which support bog pines. Smaller areas of open fen and swamp are also present at Mòine Chruinn, along and adjacent to the burn. Elsewhere, spatial transitions from bog communities to closed canopy high forest are evident at a number of localities. Protected from fire, these forest mires support a number of rare shrubs and bryophytes, including dwarf birch Betula nana, small cranberry Vaccinium microcarpum, and the rare mosses Sphagnum imbricatum, S. angustifolium and Dicranum undulatum. Small burr-reed Sparganium minimum is present at Mòine Chruinn.

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

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