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Scotland’s special habitats

Boreal Forests 

Scotland’s woodlands of pine, aspen and birch represent the westernmost examples of the boreal forest that stretches across most of northern Europe and extends east across North America and Canada to the Pacific Ocean.

The composition of Scottish woodlands is unique in Europe – other major boreal tree species such as larch and spruce don’t naturally occur here, and in turn these woodland conditions have produced an invertebrate fauna unique from all the other boreal woodlands of northern Europe.

Glen Feshie (c) Anne-Marie Smout

Glen Feshie (c) Anne-Marie Smout

In places the structure of Scotland’s ancient pine forests is likewise unique. Many large veteran trees stand in an open, airy woodland. Unlike Scandinavia, where forestry practices have removed larger, older pines, Scotland still has large stands of these ancient pine woodlands.

Scotland’s forests also have high rainfall, making them particularly good for invertebrate species that love damp, decaying wood, such as the Pine hoverfly (Blera fallax) and the Aspen hoverfly (Hammerschmidtia ferruginea).


Scotland has some of the most beautiful freshwater rivers and lakes (lochs) in the British Isles.

The River Spey is exceptional in the UK, having a naturally dynamic, shifting mosaic of small channels, islands and wetlands along the majority of its length. The Spey flood plain at Insh marshes is the largest transitional mire in the UK and comprises a variety of specialist wetland habitats that are home to many rare invertebrates.

The largest intact river confluence in Europe can be found where the River Feshie enters the Spey. This large delta of sand and gravel is an important habitat for many rare and threatened invertebrates, including the Northern silver stiletto-fly (Spiriverpa lunulata).

Around a half the world’s population of Freshwater pearl mussels (Margaritifera margaritifera) are found in Scottish rivers.

Freshwater pearl mussels can live for up to 100 years, but most populations are at risk from a wide range of activities including, of course, collecting.

Action to conserve Scottish populations of these mussels will make a major contribution to the global survival of this species.


Black Cuillin Mountains (c)Lester Standen John Muir Trust

Black Cuillin Mountains (c)Lester Standen John Muir Trust

The mountains of Scotland are important for a range of cold-loving species. Their location further south than other arctic mountains means that they feature a range of climatic conditions within a relatively small area.

Rare and endangered invertebrate species such as the Arctic whorl snail (Vertigo modesta) and the Scottish mountain spider (Mecynargus paetulus) live in these mountains above the tree-line, where they apparently thrive in seemingly severe natural conditions.


Blanket bog covers over 1 million hectares of Scotland… this represents over 70% of the habitat in the UK, and the majority of blanket bog in north-west Europe.

In the lowlands, Scotland has some of the finest examples of raised bogs in Europe. Both blanket bogs and raised bogs support specialist beetles, dragonflies and flies including the Azure hawker dragonfly (Aeshna caerulea), the Bog bush cricket (Metrioptera brachyptera) and the Bog dance-fly (Rhamphomyia obscura).

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