Derryleckagh ASSI

Protected area type: Areas of Special Scientific Interest
Feature type: 
  • Habitat
  • Down
Council: Newry, Mourne and Down
Guidance and literature: Derryleckagh ASSI

Derryleckagh Wood is notable for its intact native woodland, virtual absence of introduced alien species and its high species diversity, reflecting the sites range of physical features which include boulder ridges, rock outcrops, a small stream and several flushed sections. The tree cover is largely dominated by hazel, with occasional Sessile oak as standards. Ground flora is typically composed of bluebell, wood sorrel and wood anemone, while the scarce parasitic toothwort has also been recorded.

A rich saxicolous bryophyte community is found on the large number of boulders and rock faces which are scattered throughout the wood as well as diverse grass/herb communities in more open sections. In addition, the woodland supports a colony of the silver-washed Fritillary butterfly, which is a scarce species in eastern Ireland.

The basin fen, which is in a transitional stage between fen and bog, is characterised by its broad range of surface conditions, ranging from slightly base-rich to markedly acidic. This has enabled a typical range of wet-mire plant communities to develop. The main plant community is formed by a rather open bottle sedge and brown moss association with associated bogbean, marsh cinquefoil and the mosses Calliergon cuspidatum, Callergon giganteum and Scorpidium scorpioides forming the bulk of the vegetation. In other places, the more base-loving Sphagnum species such as Sphagnum squarrosum and the rare Sphagnum contortum, which is particularly abundant at this site, replaces the brown mosses.

The site is also of importance for the mosaic of other habitat and community types found which include localised communities of mixed sedge swards and common reed beds around old flooded peat cuttings, with associated soakaways, peaty margins supporting tall herb-rich vegetation. This gives way to a low, flushed sedge-rich sward on more mineral soils and raised areas of drier, more acidic peat, which support relict bog vegetation, and a number of adjoining fields, in which species-rich dry grassland communities occur.

In addition, the diversity of wetland habitats supports one of the most species rich invertebrate sites in Ireland - fifty species of aquatic Coleoptera (beetles) and eleven species of aquatic water bug Heteroptera have been recorded. Records for other insect groups indicate similarly rich and notable communities. As well as its overall diversity, the site contains a number of notable individual species. Species typical of oligotrophic waters are common in the open water pools, including the whirligig beetles Gyrinus natator and Gyrinus minutus and the corixid Sigara scotti. Many of the more notable species are associated with the moss carpets, including the water beetles Hydroporus scalesianus, Rhanthus grapii and Chaetarthia seminulum. Some work on non-aquatic Coleoptera in 1991 revealed one species not previously recorded in Down, namely Stenus melanarius and one species not previously recorded in Ireland, the rove beetle Schistoglossa aubei.

Derryleckagh also supports a high density of breeding wetland passerine (perching birds) and rail species (an order of inland marsh-dwelling birds with long legs and necks and bills that wade in water in search of food) including grasshopper warbler, sedge warbler, reed bunting, water rail and snipe.

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