•  Heathlands occur on sandy, infertile, acidic soils that are low in plant nutrients. Unlike peatland, heathlands are free-draining & the water is not retained. Therefore, drying out in the summer often occurs.
  • Heathland vegetation occurs on mineral soils & thin peats (<0.5 metres deep) (NIEA, 2003). Heathlands are characterized by dwarf shrubs such as heather, grasses & gorse.
  • Dwarf shrub heaths are of international importance as they are restricted to the western seaboard of Europe. They are characterised by areas dominated by heather species and/or bilberry & are associated with upland areas, but also occur on acid soils in lowlands.
  • Dwarf shrub Heath covers 17,000 ha (1.2% land area) of Northern Ireland (NICS, 2007), which is an increase from 14,000 ha (1.0% land area) in 1998 (NICS, 2000)
    (Further information: Countryside Survery – Results 2007 Chapter 7)
  • The oceanic climate of NI provides the conditions required for the development of heathlands. The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has produced Habitat Action Plans for the three types of Priority (heathland) Habitats:
    Lowland Heathland
    Upland Heathland
    – Montane Heathland (not included)
  • Lowland Heathlands are found below 300 metres, whereas Upland Heathlands are found between 300m (above the upper edge of agricultural land) & below 600m (montane limit).