Flora & Fauna

Cynefinoedd, adar a bywyd gwyllt

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The 1210 square kilometres (467 square miles) of the Cambrian Mountains includes a wide range of habitats supporting many different plants: from the bogs, heather moors and lakes of the upland plateaux down to the native woodlands of the valleys and the tumbling streams and rivers below. Five of Wales’ major rivers, the Wye, Severn, Rheidol, Towy and Teifi, rise in the Cambrians with obvious implications for water supply and flood management in their lower reaches both in England and Wales.

A large proportion of the blanket bog in Wales is found here.  Generally, an upland habitat, it began developing around 5,000-6,000 years ago and can be found where peat has accumulated to a depth of at least 0.5m – usually on flat or gently sloping ground where drainage is poor. Few plants are adapted to the acidic, infertile conditions of the deepest peat (which can be several metres in depth) and bog-mosses, heathers and cotton grasses predominate.  The resulting landscapes are huge, tracts of moorland under wide skies where shafts of light glint on myriad pools and intensify the deep colours of bog-mosses. However, parts of the Cambrians have suffered from coniferisation e.g. Hafren in the north and Tywi Forest in the south. But with recognition that much of this is poor quality plantation and on peaty soils, there is potential for sympathetic large-scale moorland restoration.

The hills include significant areas of upland wet and dry heathland (Pumlumon, Elenydd, Mynydd Mallaen) and some fine examples of Atlantic woodlands (also called Celtic Rainforest). Steep river valleys in Cwm Einion, Rheidol Woods and Gorge, Elan Valley Woodlands, and Cwm Doethie provide perfect conditions for moisture-loving lichens and bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) in these semi-natural, broad-leaved woodlands. This is a very special habitat which is increasingly rare occurring where the rainfall and humidity are high, but there is little temperature variation.  The high rocky ridges host numerous interesting lichen species, with Carn Owen under consideration as a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest for its lichens.

There is some remarkable wildlife in the Cambrians and this has been recognised by designation of numerous Protected Sites: seven Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), one Special Protection Area (SPA) for its birds and more than forty SSSIs. In all 14 Priority Habitats are found within the Cambrian Mountains as well as many Priority Species (Environment Wales Act 2016).

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red-squirrel

Red Squirrels are sometimes seen in the Cambrians, where the MidWales Red Squirrel Project is working to conserve the population. Photo courtesy of Vincent Wildlife Trust/Lizzie Croose

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