3.3 Sensitive Areas

Sensitive areas are identified as places where the benefits from management are likely to be less than the risk of damage from burning or cutting.  The sensitive areas are grouped under five headings below.

If management work is being considered in these sensitive areas, extra care will need to be considered to minimise the risk of damage. Burning or cutting should only take place in appropriate conditions.

Existing Vegetation Cover

Soil

Landform

Water Features

Existing Management
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Existing Vegetation Cover

Woodland, woodland edges and small trees/scrub

  • Fire spreading into these areas can be damaging.
  • Areas of native oak, tree birches, aspen, Scots pine, or willow are of particular value and should not be burned unless part of a woodland management plan.
  • Burning juniper bushes will be damaging as the bushes will not resprout after burning.
  • Management may take place adjacent to woodland areas to maintain important open habitats or to create the seedbed conditions suitable for native woodland regeneration.

Bracken areas

  • Fire does not control bracken, and burning is likely to promote bracken expansion.
  • Bracken should be controlled using other techniques.
  • See the bracken control website brackencontrol.co.uk

Areas of tall and old heather

  • It is important to keep a mosaic of old and young heather to benefit the widest range of wildlife, including insects.
  • Old heather is also important for some nesting bird species.
Soil

Peat that is deeper than 0.5m and wet heathland.

Areas of peat haggs, bare peat or with soil erosion.

Areas with only a thin covering of soil over underlying rock (<5cm deep).

  • If the vegetation is removed by burning from such areas it is possible that the soil will be eroded by wind and water down to bare rock, or the mineral soil, preventing regeneration.
Landform

Summits, ridges and other areas very exposed to the wind.

  • Vegetation in these areas is controlled by the high winds, so burning would have no benefit and would risk removing the vegetation cover leading to erosion.
  • These conditions are most likely to occur:
    • Above 300 m in the north-west,
    • Above 600 m in the south-east, and
    • In very exposed areas at lower altitudes, near to the coast or where the wind is funnelled through a pass.

Steep hillsides and gullies.

  • Fires on steep slopes are more difficult to control.
    • On a slope greater than 1 in 3 (180), burning should only be carried out by experienced people using appropriate techniques and equipment.
    • Slopes steeper than 1 in 2 (260) should be avoided altogether.
  • Burning in gullies should only be attempted with great caution; they can act like a chimney, drawing air upwards and increasing the intensity of a fire.
Water Features

See Additional Information No.3 – Water management – for further details. Not yet drafted – SEPA to make recommendation about requirement.

Edge of watercourses

  • Vegetation at the edge of watercourse is important to protect the banks from erosion and reduce water run-off.
  • Generally, management free buffer zones must be maintained against watercourse.
  • The width of the buffer zones should be 10m for watercourses less than 2m wide, and 20m where the watercourse is more than 2m wide.
  • The requirement for a buffer can only be waived on grounds of safety when it can be shown that a watercourse is the only effective anchor or the only practical type of firebreak.

Acid Sensitive Catchments

  • Additional precautions are required when planning muirburn in the catchment of a water body current failing or at risk of failing Good Ecological Status due to acidification.

Flood Risk

  • Bare soil must be avoided and additional restrictions on burning and cutting may be required in high risks, if identified by SNH, SEPA or other agencies.

Drinking Water Catchments

  • If Scottish Water or SEPA identify problems in drinking water catchment, additional restrictions on cutting and burning may be required to reduce the impact of run-off on drinking water quality.
Existing management
Areas subject to heavy grazing are unlikely to be suitable for burning. A combination of heavy grazing and muirburn is likely to result in heather loss and loss of species diversity due to colonisation by invasive grass species.

or…

Existing management
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Areas subject to heavy grazing are unlikely to be suitable for burning. A combination of heavy grazing and muirburn is likely to result in heather loss and loss of species diversity due to colonisation by invasive grass species.