SPA description
(information as published 2001)


image: SPA location map 


The Cairngorms massif is located in the central Highlands of Scotland, and comprises the largest area of mountain habitats in Britain. The plateau, at over 1,000 m, is divided by deep glacial valleys, and there are several summits that exceed 1,000 m, the largest being Ben MacDui at 1,309 m. The central core of the massif is acidic, base-poor granite, although some peripheral areas (such as the Glen Feshie sector to the west, which is on the Moine Schist) are relatively base-rich. The high elevation, location in the central Highlands and low winter temperatures combine to create the most boreal habitats in Britain. The summit plateau has extensive alpine communities on thin soils, with Racomitrium lanuginosum or Three-leaved Rush Juncus trifidus heaths, as well as more sparse vegetation cover, on the porous gravel soils at over 1,100 m. Extensive snow bed communities are major features on the highest slopes and corries sheltered from the sun. On the high ground, there are also mires and springs, with grasslands on the corrie walls, while down through the middle slopes there is Heather Calluna vulgaris or Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus heath with a decreasing proportion of lichens at lower altitudes. Pine Pinus sp. and Birch Betula pendula woodlands occur on parts of the lower slopes, where formerly there was more extensive forest cover. There are also wet heaths and blanket mire on the wetter ground of the lower regions. Mountain lakes and streams have their own distinctive flora and fauna, with the upper reaches of the larger watercourses deeply eroded by occasional flash floods after heavy rainfall. The flora and invertebrate fauna are rich in montane species as well as characteristic elements associated with bogs, heaths and pinewoods. The breeding montane birds occur on the plateaux and high tops, while raptors (including nesting Osprey Pandion haliaetus) and pinewood specialists (including Scottish Crossbill Loxia scotica – Britain's only endemic bird species) are well represented elsewhere within this massif. 


Qualifying species

For individual species accounts visit the Species Accounts section


 This site qualifies under Article 4.1 of the Directive (79/409/EEC) by supporting populations of European importance of the following species listed on Annex I of the Directive:


During the breeding season;
Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus, 125 individuals representing at least 5.7% of the breeding population in Great Britain
Dotterel Charadrius morinellus, 240 pairs representing at least 28.6% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Count, as at 1995)
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos, 12 pairs representing at least 3.0% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Count, as at 1995)
Merlin Falco columbarius, 14 pairs representing at least 1.1% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Count, as at 1995)
Osprey Pandion haliaetus, 2 pairs representing at least 2.0% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Count as at early 1990's)
Peregrine Falco peregrinus, 12 pairs representing at least 1.0% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Count, as at 1995)
Scottish Crossbill Loxia scotica, 50 pairs representing at least 16.7% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Count as at ??)



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