Dornoch Firth and Morrich More IPA

Location: On the north east coast of Scotland.

Grid Reference: NH 831 850

Dorncoh Firth & Morrich More (c)Neil Aitkenhead [CC BY-SA 3.0 (httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby-sa3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.jpg

Dornoch Firth & Morrich More IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.

The key features of this IPA are:

  • The species richness of bryophytes in Coastal shingle habitats: stablised shingle
  • The species richness of lichens in Coastal dune and sand habitats: acid sand dunes and Coastal shingle habitats: stablised shingle
  • One of the best UK examples of threatened habitats of:
    Old fixed dunes;
    Salt tolerant vegetation on intertidal saltmarshes;
    Coastal dunes with Juniper;
    Old fixed dunes with Crowberry;
    Very young mobile dunes;
    Fixed dunes;
    Humid dune slacks;
    Mud and sandbanks colonised by Salicornia (glasswort) and other annuals;
    Shifting dunes along the shoreline
  • The most northerly of the four inner firths of the Moray Firth, the Dornoch Firth extends inland from wide sandy beaches and large bays.

    Wide sandy beaches dominate the large bays at the mouth of the Firth and it also supports large areas of intertidal flats, heaths, sand dunes, saltmarsh and a stretch of rocky shore. Dornoch Firth and Morrich More has the most extensive area of pioneer glasswort Salicornia spp. saltmarsh in Scotland.

    The dune systems at Dornoch Links and Morrich More are of international importance for their flora, and the Firth area as a whole supports a variety of important wetland features and several scarce plants. It is one of the least industrialised estuaries on the east coast of Scotland.

    At low tide, large exposed mudflats reveal extensive eelgrass beds, with populations of both narrow-leaved eelgrass and dwarf eelgrass. Bordering the mudflats, much of the land is very low lying, and supports extensive areas of saltmarsh and meandering tidal creeks. Saltmarsh species such as glasswort and saltmarsh-grass are found towards the seaward edge.

    Further inland, these grade into extensive beds of pink thrift, intermixed with sea arrowgrass and sea plantain. Baltic rush and seaside centaury grow in the transitional zone between upper saltmarsh and damp dune grassland.

    The dune heath is dominated by ling and bell heather, with stands of burnet rose, and dense mature stands of gorse. Flowering plants are typically few but include common dog-violet, bird’s foot trefoil, lady’s bedstraw and wild thyme. Pyramidal bugle grows only in a very small area of the dune heathland at Skibo and the heathland at Cuthill and Skibo links supports extensive and unusual lichen-rich lawns, where several rare lichens are present, including the dark green felt lichen.

    Morrich More is the most important site in the UK for juniper Juniperus spp. stands on dune, with stands of juniper covering approximately 10 ha and scattered individuals over a larger area.

    Image: Dornoch Firth © Neil Aitkenhead under CC BY-SA 3.0