Upland habitats cover around a third of UK’s land surface and about 2/3 of Scotland is considered Upland. Our Upland wildlife has a special character due to our oceanic climate, cool summers, plentiful wind and rain, and mild winters. Our montane vegetation sustains a large number of our plants, moss communities and liverworts most under threat.

Upland Habitat Features:

a) Treeline Forest and Montane Scrub. Found mostly in Scotland. These consist of Dwarf Willow, Dwarf Birch and Prostrate Juniper. Most of this type of habitat has been damaged badly by overgrazing. Best examples of Treeline Forest and Montane Scrub are to be found in Creag Fhiaclach above Glen Feshie, on Creag Meagaidh and in Coire Cas.

b) Upland Blanket Bog and Heathland. Largest examples of this are in Migneint, Berwyn and Plynlumon in Wales, The Pennines in England, Caithness and Sutherland and Wester Ross in Scotland. The Oceanic Heath in Wester Ross is the most expansive example of this rare habitat in Europe, gaining it international recognition and the UK has international responsibility for its care.

c) Snowbeds. One of our habitats most under threat and mainly found in Scotland. With climate change, fewer snowbeds last the whole year through, even in the deep corries and gullies on the north and eastern slopes of the Cairngorms. Plant communities that live around these snowbeds consist of a number of rare mosses, liverworts and lichens. They are all restricted to growing in the highest mountains in Scotland. They have nowhere to go if climate change impact persists.

d) Steep Slopes and Rock Ledges. Home to a number of very rare flowers like Alpine Sow Thistle and Mountain Bladder Fern. These are now limited to a few slopes and crags that deer, goats and sheep cannot reach. Hundreds of years of high grazing levels have reduced these plants to these awkward and otherwise uninhabitable ledges. In Snowdon, wet north facing cliffs have “hanging basket” style displays of tall herb plant life. This includes Early Purple Orchid, Welsh Poppy, Snowdon Lily, Globeflower and Diminutive Saxifrages.

The main issues pertaining to Uplands in the UK are the protection of the rare species we have left and the fact that many plant communities are small in population, thus making it more and more difficult to multiply and grow. Plantgrowth in the uplands is slow and very susceptible to damage as recovery time is painstakingly long. Overgrazing of deer, sheep and goats is a major issue. Many alpine plant populations have become so fragmented that they struggle to reproduce. Climate change is also a growing threat. There are also pressures from recreational activities such as skiing, mountain cycling, and walking.

Uncontrolled heather burning can also be a cause of damage to upland plant life, as well as air pollution. Compared to earlier ages in our country’s history – such as the Edwardian and Victorian ages –  collecting living plants for garden or herb samples is now rare. However, populations of a number of upland plants are now so small, even taking single samples can have a negative effect on the habitat. Plant theft does still happen, for example several sites in Wales that have been targeted have led to populations being destroyed even as recently as this century.

If you have an upland project you would like to discuss, then call us on 01228 711841 or email enquiries@openspacegb.com.

Updated April 2017