Ballycarry ASSI

Protected area type: Areas of Special Scientific Interest
Feature type: 
  • Habitat
  • Species
County: 
  • Antrim
Council: Antrim and Newtownabbey
Guidance and literature: Ballycarry ASSI

The area is of special scientific interest because of its heath and wetland vegetation. The site occupies a relatively flat plateau on the Lower Basalt rock to the north-east of Rathlin Island. A series of depressions and troughs form a number of small wetlands, interconnected by low-lying channels and flushes. Exposure to wind and salt have produced a characteristic assemblage of plants.

The vegetation over much of the area is dominated by the sub-shrubs heather, bell heather and western gorse, which together form a distinctive dwarf-heath community. This vegetation type is restricted in its distribution within the British Isles, and Rathlin represents its most northerly known location. Maritime species such as sea pink, sea plantain and sea campion become more frequent in the vicinity of the cliff edge, where the peat soils are very thin and exposure reduces the vigor of the main heath species. Moss and lichen cover is high in this area.

Small depressions are poorly drained and contain wet heath vegetation with cross-leaved heath, purple moor grass and bog asphodel.

The site also supports a large number of large and small flooded hollows form peat-bottomed lakes and ponds. The open waters support stands of floating and emergent vegetation comprised of broad-leaved pondweed, unbranched bur-reed, bottle sedge, common spike-rush and common reed respectively. Around the margins floating rafts of poor acid fen can be found, characterised by aquatic Sphagnum bog mosses and which have, in a number of cases, completely covered the surface of some ponds. Runnels or water courses on the site support a more base rich flush vegetation, characterised by black bog-rush occasionally run into these hollows while soakways, characterised by marsh St John's-wort and bog pondweed in a few cases flowing between them. 

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