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Ring of Gullion Biodiversity

The area today has a rich flora and fauna with many nationally and internationally important habitats and species.

Biodiversity in RoG

ASSIs in the Ring of Gullion

Below are listed both the geology and biodiversity Areas of Special Scientific Interest in south Armagh. The Northern Ireland Environment Agency holds the latest site related documents; site maps, citations, views about management documents  and site leaflets about all the Areas of Special Scientific Interest on their pages – here.

Check out our interactive map below for details on where to see wildlife in the Ring of Gullion, how to get involved, and how to help wildlife.

Cam Lough - Biodiversity

Cam Lough - Biodiversity

Cam Lough is a mid-altitude lake that lies in a steep sided valley between Slieve Gullion and Sturgan Mountain to the west and Camlough Mountain to the east.

Cam Lough is special place because of its aquatic flora and fauna which are dependent on unpolluted water and low levels of plant nutrients. The diverse substrate of the lake, which ranges from boulder and rock to gravel with sand predominating in deeper water provides a variety of niches for a wide range of plants and animals. This type of lake is fast becoming rare in the Northern Ireland countryside due to pollution.

A variety of floating plants form rafts on the surface, these include unbranched bur-reed, amphibious bistort and a number of pondweeds. On the shore and in the shallows shoreweed is abundant with quillwort present as a rare associate. Growing in amongst these submerged lawns are stoneworts and the moss Fintinalis antipyretica. Also included within the macrophyte community are a number of notable and rare plants such as; eight-stamened waterwort and six-stamened waterwort, red pondweed and lesser pondweed. The stands of emergent vegetation form a swamp community and are composed mainly of common spike-rush and reed canary-grass. Where the shore is sheltered significant areas of fen have developed.

Around Cam Lough are habitats such as wet woodland and marshy grassland. Typical trees of the woodland areas are willow and downy birch. A wide range of birds and invertebrates are also found at Cam Lough.

Camlough Quarry - Geology

Camlough Quarry - Geology

The area is of special scientific interest because of its geology, which is seen in outcrop at a disused quarry on the west side of Camlough Mountain.

The Slieve Gullion volcanic complex, of which Camlough Quarry is a part, is the finest example of a Palaeogene igneous centre in Ireland and is among the best topographic expressions of a ring-dyke system in the Ireland or the UK. The rocks found here are of international geological importance, having played an important role in a number of theories related to the development of and interaction between igneous rocks.

The Slieve Gullion complex developed in an area of crustal weakness, previously exploited by the much older Newry granite, around 400 million years ago. The Slieve Gullion complex is historically important as it has featured in a number of major geological debates on the nature of igneous rocks and the processes by which they can be formed.

Camlough Quarry exposes the older country rocks which are the turbidites of Silurian age (here melted and fused by the intrusion of the Newry granodiorite and altered into a hornfels) and the late Caledonian age Newry granodiorite itself. The site contains evidence of the complex relationships between highly deformed (sheared) contact metamorphosed Silurian rocks and the Newry Igneous Complex. The quarry face also exposes the inner wall of the younger Palaeogene age ring dyke (here consisting of a porphyritic granophyre). The intrusion is partially fault controlled, thereby providing evidence in support of the theory that the Slieve Gullion Ring Dyke was emplaced in a ring fracture generated during Palaeogene deformation. A late phase of movement along the fault has produced both crush-banded rocks known as mylonites and shattered angular rocks known as the Camlough Breccias. This location provides a fuller understanding of the geological history of the Slieve Gullion Ring complex.

Carlingford Lough - Biodiversity

Carlingford Lough - Biodiversity

The limestones of Carlingford Lough were deposited in a shallow sea basin during the Carboniferous period 339 million years ago. They contain numerous fossils, such as brachiopods and solitary corals. Moraines and deposited sediments provide evidence of the movement of ice sheets and glaciers.picture of male and female shelduckThe site supports a range of unusual and rich littoral communities, including sheltered sands, muddy sands, muds and boulder shores. It exhibits a good natural transition from lower shore communities, through upper shore saltmarsh to fen vegetation.

Mill Bay supports the largest intact block of saltmarsh in Northern Ireland. Internationally important numbers of wildfowl and waders overwinter on the site, including pale-bellied Brent geese, great crested grebes, shelduck, scaup, redshank and oystercatchers. Carlingford Lough is also important for terns and has historically been an important site for breeding Roseate terns.

Carrickastickan - Biodiversity

Carrickastickan - Biodiversity

The two fields at Carrickastickan are typically grass dominated with a wide range of associated herbs. The grasses crested dog's-tail, red fescue, common bent and sweet vernal-grass are constant in the sward with other grass-like species such as field wood-rush also found scattered throughout. Herbs typical of traditionally managed grasslands are frequent throughout the swards and include oxeye daisy, meadow vetchling, yellow-rattle, Yarrow, common knapweed, common spotted-orchid and meadow buttercup. picture of lady's bedstraw in flowerWhere soils are thin lady's bed-straw and bird's-foot trefoil are locally very abundant with a range of other small herbs including fairy flax, eyebright and bulbous buttercup. These species reflect the slightly base-rich soil conditions.

In addition field scabious and burnet saxifrage occur in one of the fields. Both of these species have a fairly restricted distribution in Northern Ireland with the former usually being more associated with verges than pastures and the latter with only a few known sites in County Armagh.

Carrivemaclone - Geology

Carrivemaclone - Geology

Carrivemaclone is a special place because of its earth science interest. The area provides access to exposures of a granite-like rock called granodiorite that together with a number of other sites describe the Newry Igneous Complex.

The granodiorite was formed some 410 million years ago. This is an igneous rock type, that is, it was injected as magma (molten rock) into pre-existing older rocks – Silurian sedimentary rocks. These older rocks are known as ‘host’ rocks. The magma then cooled slowly eventually forming huge masses of solid rock deep beneath the surface. Subsequent erosion has now exposed parts of these enormous rock units.

Each of these igneous rock units is referred to as a pluton. Three of these are present which collectively make up the Newry Igneous Complex. The complex extends over an area of about 45km2 from Slieve Croob in the northeast to Forkhill in south Armagh.

The site at Carrivemaclone comprises two sections; a roadside section immediately north of the Cloghoge Roundabout on the western (northbound) side of the main A1 Newry By Pass, and a roadside section at the southwestern side of the A1 onslip at Cloghoge. The rocks at Carrivemaclone are of great importance as the first section is part of the central pluton, whilst the second is part of the south west pluton, offering an excellent location to view two of these plutons in close proximity.

Each pluton has slightly different types of granodiorite with the rocks exposed as part of the central pluton having much larger crystals and being lighter in colour due to an abundance of the mineral plagioclase feldspar, than that of the south west pluton that has smaller crystals and is darker in colour due to a greater abundance of the mineral biotite mica.

At the Cloghoge Roundabout section, there is another type of rock exposed that is dark green in colour. This is called granophyre and is part of the much more recent (about 60 million years old) Ring of Gullion ring dyke.

Cashel Loughs - Biodiversity

Cashel Loughs - Biodiversity

Cashel Loughs is an extensive area of semi-natural vegetation in an ice-scoured rock basin. It takes in a wide range of habitats including dry heath, acid grassland, scrub and woodland. The wetlands are of particular importance, with a range of communities including the open waters of the three loughs in addition to adjoining fen, cut-over bog, wet heath and rush pasture. The area contains a number of vascular plants with a restricted distribution in the British isles, including marsh St. John's-wort, western gorse and a number of notable mosses.

The diversity of wetland habitats supports a rich invertebrate community including 30 species of water beetle, 15 species of spider and 10 species of ground beetle. In addition to its overall diversity, the site contains a number of notable species including the rove beetle Stenus nitens, the water beetle Laccornis oblongus and four species of spider.

Clermont & Anglesey Mountain - Biodiversity

Clermont & Anglesey Mountain - Biodiversity

Clermont & Anglesey Mountain has been declared an area is of special scientific interest because of its heathland vegetation, in addition to its associated plant and animal species. Complex patterns of dry and wet heath with associated habitats form a mosaic of vegetation within a varied topography.

The heathland communities are very variable and depend upon local environmental conditions. They exhibit a well defined altitudinal sequence from lowland through to upland heath. Transitional communities throughout this gradation contribute to the overall interest of the area.

Below 250m in height the heath is often characterised by the abundance of Western Gorse Ulex gallii. This type of vegetation is generally restricted to the warm, oceanic regions of lowland Britain, and its occurrence so far north is notable. This heath gives way upslope to vegetation in which Heather Calluna vulgaris and Bell Heather Erica cinerea are the dominant species, forming the most widespread heath community on Clermont & Anglesey Mountain. At higher altitudes, transitional communities with species such as Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus occur.

On the lower slopes and in hollows the damp microclimate allows wet heaths to develop. This community is dominated by the prominence of Cross-leaved Heath Erica tetralix, Common Cottongrass Eriophorum angustifolium, Bog Asphodel Narthecium ossigfragum and Sphagnum bog-mosses.

Some of the slopes are flushed by mineral rich waters and are characterised by sedges such as Dioecious Sedge Carex dioica and Common Yellow-sedge Carex viridula with herbs such as Devil’s-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis.

Cloghinny - Geology

Cloghinny - Geology

The area is of special scientific interest because of its geology, which is seen in outcrop at Cloghinny.

The Slieve Gullion volcanic complex, of which Cloghinny is a part, is the finest example of a Palaeogene (56-58 million years ago) igneous centre in Ireland and is among the best topographic expression of a ring-dyke system in the British Isles.
The volcanic rocks found here are of international geological importance, having played an important role in a number of theories related to the development of and interaction between igneous rocks.

The Slieve Gullion complex is historically important as it has featured in a number of major geological debates on the nature of igneous rocks and the processes by which they can be formed.

Cloghinny is part of the central Slieve Gullion volcanic complex and contains evidence of the interaction between the acid and basic igneous rocks that form Slieve Gullion.

Drumlougher Lough - Biodiversity

Drumlougher Lough is a large, diverse site, situated in a irregular hollow with many rocky outcrops. A wide range of habitats occur as a mosaic. Substantial areas of cut-over bog support various fen and swamp communities, which occur in scattered stands throughout the site.

Floating mats of base rich fen are dominated by species such as bottle sedge, march cinquefoil and bog-bean. Within the acid fen vegetation, a range of sedge species such as star sedge, white sedge and common sedge occur over a dense carpet of Sphagnum mosses. Swamp can be found fringing the peat cuttings and in shallows around the edge of the lake.
picture of bog sedgeNotable plants include least bur-reed, bog-sedge and marsh speedwell.
Additional habitat diversity is provided by the open water of the lough, regenerating bog, wet and dry heath, acid grassland and scrub.

The site also supports a rich invertebrate fauna with a large number of notable and rare species present.

Fathom Upper ASSI - Biodiversity

Fathom Upper ASSI - Biodiversity

Fathom Upper ASSI is a species rich Grassland. The site is composed of four fields and an area of gorse scrub. Such species rich grasslands are now a rare habitat in Northern Ireland.

The four fields contain a range of species typical of traditionally managed grassland. These include a variety of grasses such as common bent, crested dog's-tail and sweet vernal-grass, and a range of meadow herbs including Yarrow, devil's bit-scabious, common birds-foot-trefoil and cat's-ear.

In addition several orchids occur, such as common spotted orchid, greater butterfly-orchid, and frog orchid.
Lesser spearwort, purple loosestrife, wild angelica and water mint dominate the wetter areas of the site.

Many of these species are only found where traditional farming methods prevail. The use of herbicide, artificial fertiliser, or the application of slurry or manure would cause a reduction of the number of plant species on the site. Picture of a frog orchid

Glendesha - Geology

Glendesha - Geology

The area is of special scientific interest because of its geology, which is visible in an outcrop on the western side of Slievebrook.

The Slieve Gullion volcanic complex, of which Camlough Quarry is a part, is the finest example of a Palaeogene igneous centre in Ireland and is among the best topographic expressions of a ring-dyke system in the British Isles. The rocks found here are of international geological importance, having played an important role in a number of theories related to the development of and interaction between igneous rocks.

The Slieve Gullion complex developed in an area of crustal weakness, previously exploited by the much older Newry granite, around 400 million years ago. The Slieve Gullion complex is historically important as it has featured in a number of major geological debates on the nature of igneous rocks and the processes by which they can be formed.

The main rock exposures found in Glendesha consist of the porphyritic felsite part of the ring dyke which here forms the steep hillsid eof Slievebrack.

Lislea - Geology

The Ring of Gullion is one of the finest examples of a ring dyke in Britain or ireland. It is of Palaeogene age, some 56-58 Ma. The volcanic rocks found here are of international geological importance, having played an important role in the development of a number of theories of the development and interaction between igneous rocks. At Lislea, the inner and outer contact of the ring dyke is exposed, xenoliths in the ring dyke are observed along with crushing of the emplaced and pre existing rocks.
The area is of special scientific interest because of its geology, which is expressed in outcrop at Lislea.

The Slieve Gullion volcanic complex, of which Lislea is a part, is the finest example of a Tertiary igneous centre in Ireland and is among the best topographic expression of a ring-dyke system in the British Isles. The rocks found here are of international geological importance, having played an important role in a number of theories related to the development of and interaction between igneous rocks.

The Slieve Gullion complex is historically important as it has featured in a number of major geological debates on the nature of igneous rocks and the processes by which they can be formed.

At Lislea, the inner and outer contacts of the ring dyke, composed of porphyritic granophyre, can be seen. The intruded relationship with the host Newry granodiorite can also be seen. Contacts within the granophyre show that it developed as a result of many intrusive pulses. Near the centre of the granophyre dyke, large, alien blocks of well rounded, fine-grained granitic rock, up to a metre across, can be seen. The origin of these blocks has been much debated, some geologists believing them to be altered Newry granodiorite, transformed by the more recent Palaeogene igneous activity.

Levallymore - Biodiversity

Levallymore - Biodiversity

Levallymore is a series of fields with species-rich grassland communities rich in old meadow indicators. It is particularly important because of the extent of species-rich dry grassland present on the site and the presence of some locally notable plant species. Species-rich dry grassland is a particularly rare resource in NI and is usually not found in larger field parcels. Levallymore is the largest area of species-rich dry grassland located during two years of Phase I survey in this area of South Armagh.

The grassland communities at Levallymore range from moderately species-rich swards to areas with abundant orchids and herbs. Swards all tend to be grass dominated with frequent common bent, crested dog's-tail and sweet vernal-grass. Associated meadow species include herbs such as eyebright and common bird's-foot trefoil. More species-rich swards contain many meadow indicators such as yellow-rattle, eyebright, common knapweed, pill sedge and greater bird's-foot trefoil.

In addition, Levallymore is notable for the collection and relative abundance of the hemiparasitic species ( a plant that is parasitic under natural conditions and is also photosynthetic to some degree ) eyebright, yellow-rattle and lousewort The orchids greater butterfly-orchid and spotted-orchids are abundant in places. Field scabious, field gentian and the grassland fungus Hygrocybe intermedia are all notable.

Loughaveely - Biodiversity

Loughaveely - Biodiversity

Loughaveely is a small site in an extended basin. A number of fen communities occur to the west around the large pool forming a natural open wate transition, where the rare fen species bog-sedge and lesser tussock-sedge can be found locally abundant. The eastern part contains a complex of small pools formed by old peat cuttings. picture of bog sedgeThe fen vegetation here is dominated by bogbean and bottle sedge, whilst small areas of more elevated cut-over bog remain. Pockets of wet grassland and scrub around the periphery add diversity to the site.

The fen communities support several scarce plant species, including cowbane, the sedge and the moss Calliergon cordifolium. Notable invertebrates include the water beetles Hydroporus scalesianus and Laccornis oblongus, which are confined to undisturbed, high quality fen.

Lurgan Lough - Biodiversity

Lurgan Lough - Biodiversity

The wetlands associated with Lurgan Lough form a series of irregular basins within gently-undulating land, separated by gently rising ground which is only a few metres above the level of the basins. These low ridges still retain semi-natural vegetation over most of their area and thus link the basins as an ecological unit with a total area of 16.20 hectares.
Two of the basins have lakes surrounded by marginal swamp. Otherwise, the main wetland areas are fen, occurring as intricate mosaics with wet heath/bog in areas of old cut-over. Small areas of Salix (a genus of trees or shrubs including the willow) carr (a type of wetland with peaty soils, generally found in low-lying situations) are also present within the wetland. The site also holds a number of valuable habitats on the more elevated areas, including unimproved acid grassland, dry heath, gorse scrub and broad-leaved woodland. picture of a white water lilySome of the former peatland area has been reclaimed to wet Juncus (rush) pasture or semi-improved grassland, but the quality of the semi-natural habitats is generally good, with little evidence of damage, apart from local nutrient-enrichment. The site thus forms an extensive complex of varied habitats which must be considered as having substantial wildlife interest.
The two lakes support a rich aquatic flora, with white water lily, yellow water lily, unbranched burr-reed and branched burr-reed. Lurgan Lough contains a number of notable fen species, including cowbane, Royal fern and narrow buckler-fern.
The fen vegetation at Lurgan Lough is also one of the most important wetland habitats in South Armagh for invertebrates. It supports a number of rare species of water beetles, ground beetles and spiders.

Mullaghbane - Geology

The Ring of Gullion is one of the finest examples of a ring dyke in Britain or Ireland. It is of Palaeogene age, some 56-58 Ma. The volcanic rocks found here are of international geological importance, having played an important role in the development of a number of theories of the development and interaction between igneous rocks. The rocks found at Mullaghbane show flow banding in the ring dyke, vent agglomerate, fluid alteration and minor intrusion into the ring dyke.

The area is of special scientific interest because of its geology, which is expressed in outcrop at several discrete localities.

The Slieve Gullion volcanic complex, of which Mullaghbane is a part, is the finest example of a Tertiary igneous centre in Ireland and is among the best topographic expression of a ring-dyke system in the British Isles. The rocks found here are of international geological importance, having played an important role in a number of theories related to the development of and interaction between igneous rocks.

The Slieve Gullion complex is historically important as it has featured in a number of major geological debates on the nature of igneous rocks and the processes by which they can be formed.

Mullaghbane consist of several localities which expose a range of rock types found in the Ring of Gullion. The northernmost locality exposes the earliest rocks intruded into the ring. This vent agglomerate provides evidence of the explosive violence of the initial phase of development of the ring dyke, probably associated with degassing. Further outcrops show the contact between the felsite and the porphyritic granophyre of the main intrusion. The locality demonstrates that the granophyre was later because there is clear evidence that it chilled against the felsite with the former rock type also veining the latter.

This section of the site is important because it establishes the age relationships between the two main rock types intruded into the ring and also the relationship with the vent agglomerates.

At the central locality the Newry granodiorite, the host rock into which the ring was intruded, is here inside the ring dyke. The rock is red in colour and much altered by gases or fluids or both, moving through the rock during the period of Slieve Gullion’s earliest eruptions. Further sections show porphyritic felsite, the initial rock injected into the ring, which exhibits flow bands of welded volcanic dust, a further indication of the violent nature of this phase of the areas volcanic history.

At the southernmost locality, there is a small, vertical, cylindrical plug of dolerite enclosed in Newry granodiorite. The age of this intrusion is a matter of debate. The dolerite is seamed with granitic veins that have been attributed to the Newry granodiorite, which would make it around 390 million years old. A reinterpretation gives an alternative explanation and a Palaeogene age of around 58 million years.

Taken together these locations provide a fuller understanding of the geological history of the Slieve Gullion Ring complex.

Slieve Gullion - Biodiversity

Slieve Gullion - Biodiversity

Slieve Gullion is one of the largest heathlands in Northern Ireland. The variety of heathland types reflects the different environmental conditions on the site, with the most extensive community dominated by heather. On the lower slopes there is a natural transition from upland communities, to lowland heaths and acid grasslands down into a series of small wetlands. These 'basin fens' are very diverse and of high conservation value. Some of the lowland heath communities are especially important for Northern Ireland.

A number of notable species have been recorded. These include cowberry on the higher slopes, western gorse and the moss Sphagnum compactum in the lowland heath and Dioecious sedge and pale butterwort in the richer flushed areas.

The Ring of Gullion is one of the best ring-dyke systems in the British Isles. Slieve Gullion itself is the finest example of a tertiary igneous centre in Ireland. The rock exposures on the mountain and surrounding areas are of international geological importance.

Tullyard - Biodiversity

Tullyard - Biodiversity

The two fields at Tullyard are managed as hay meadows. They contain a range of species typical of dry grasslands that have been managed at low intensity.The grasses crested dog's-tail, sweet vernal-grass, common bent, red fescue and Yorkshire-fog are common throughout.

Herbs such as meadow vetchling, common knapweed, yellow-rattle, greater bird's-foot trefoil and meadow buttercup are widespread and in places abundant.
Other typical meadow species occurring less frequently include bird's-foot trefoil, oxeye daisy and tufted vetch. The orchids common spotted and greater butterfly are occasional in the meadows.

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Quick Contact

Ring of Gullion AONB
Crossmaglen Community Centre,
O’Fiaich Square,
Crossmaglen,
BT35 9AA.

Tel: +44 (0)28 3086 1949
Slieve Gullion Forest Park: +44 (0)28 3031 3170
Email: info@ringofgullion.org

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