The Cairngorm Plateau

Dotterel on Cairngorm Plateau

In the eastern Highlands the Cairngorm plateau averages 1000–1200m above sea level, with Ben Macdui, the second-highest mountain in Scotland, rising to just over 1300m. In places the edges of the plateau form steep cliffs of granite where snow can lie for most of the year. The plateau, unique in Britain, is an alpine, semi-tundra habitat. It is home to many rare plants, birds and animals. Speciality bird species on the plateau include breeding ptarmigan, dotterel, snow bunting, golden eagle, ring ouzel. Rare vagrant snowy owls occasionally make an appearance, sometimes remaining on the plateau for extended periods of time. Mammals include red deer and mountain hare.

On the high tops are found the most extensive areas of acidic arctic-boreal heath in Britain. Up there severe exposure reduces plants such as ling (heather), reindeer lichen, cloudberry, bearberry and patches of trailing azalea to barely more than a few centimetres in height . Species-poor acid grasslands are also extensive with species such as alpine lady’s-mantle and sibbaldia making an appearance. 

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