WREN - Wester Ross Environment Network

Wildlife Habitats of Wester Ross

From our unique rugged coastline to the summits of some of the worlds oldest mountain ranges, our moorlands, forests, lochs, rivers, glens, the habitats of Wester Ross are possibly some of the most diverse in the British Isles. The area is home to a wealth of wildlife, plantlife, insects and sealife.

Sea and Coast

Proximity to the sea has a huge influence on the biological richness of Wester Ross. The area has a long, varied and very beautiful coastline, ranging from exposed headlands to deeply indented, extremely sheltered sea lochs. The Wester Ross sea lochs are true fjords, with ice-scoured basins separated from each other and from the open sea by relatively narrow and shallow sills, and in Scotland are features found only on the west coast.

Forest and Woodlands

Forestry and woodland management are important and significant land uses in Wester Ross. The area has some key examples of native woodland remnants, and the establishment of new native woodlands has increased over the past few years as incentives have developed and the crofting community has sought to diversify. The location and condition of woodlands has been shaped by both environmental factors such as climate, soil type and browsing pressure, and by past and present management practices.

Lochs, Rivers and Burns

Wester Ross has some of the most exciting and prolific wild game fishing in one of the most spectacular parts of Scotland. There are over 20 rivers in the area with populations of Atlantic salmon. Loch Maree was formerly world renowned for its sea trout fishing. There are hundreds of remote lochs in the hills with wild brown trout. Both salmon and trout are "keystone" species within the river systems of Wester Ross.

Estates and Crofts

There are over 1100 crofts in Wester Ross. A typical croft consists of a small area of enclosed land close to the steading (in-bye land) which is or has been cultivated, and a share of more extensive, common grazing on hill land(out-bye). There are also a number of farms in the area, e.g. at Applecross, Gairloch and Ullapool. Here, the soils are richer and the fields larger and more intensively worked. Most farms combine sheep and cattle rearing, and some fodder crops are grown.

Mountain and Moorland

Wester Ross is perhaps best known for its stunning mountain environment. The high altitude combined with the high latitude creates good conditions for both alpine and sub alpine plants. Acidic soil conditions with the associated plant communities dominate,but pockets of limestone and other mineral rich rock are exposed in places throughout Wester Ross and these areas encourage an interesting diversity of flora. The high altitude grasslands and moss heaths grade to dry heathland dominated by ling heather, with a blanket peat / wet heath mosaic once the slopes begin to lessen.

Built Environment

In an area such as Wester Ross where the countryside is so important for biodiversity, it is
possible to overlook the importance of the built environment. However, buildings, gardens, roads and other man made structures provide an important biodiversity resource, both in terms of the habitats and species that they contain and through the potential for securing an interest from the general public in wildlife and raising awareness of the related issues.

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WREN would like to thank the following organisations for their support:
Scottish Natural Heritage
The European Agriculture fund for Rural Development. Europe investing in rural areas
The Highland Council
The Scottish Government

Tom Forrest (Chairman) chair@wr-en.co.uk

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