General characteristics

Inland water bodies (Standing water, Running water) (1%)

Bogs, Marshes, Water fringed vegetation, Fens (42%)

Heath, Scrub, Maquis and Garrigue, Phygrana (40%)

Humid grassland, Mesophile grassland (12%)

Improved grassland (2%)

Broad-leaved deciduous woodland (1%)

Inland rocks, Screes, Sands, Permanent Snow and ice (2%)

Habitats that are a primary reason for selection of this site

Northern Atlantic wet heaths with Erica tetralix

Dartmoor is representative of upland wet heath in south-west England. M15 Scirpus cespitosus – Erica tetralix wet heath predominates and together with other mire communities and small areas of drier heathland, forms a distinctive mosaic of vegetation types not fully represented elsewhere. Smaller amounts of M16 Erica tetralix – Sphagnum compactum wet heath occur. Additionally, there are transitions to areas of M21 Narthecium ossifragum – Sphagnum papillosum valley mire.

European dry heaths

Dartmoor is representative of upland heath in southwest England. The site is notable because it contains extensive areas of H4 Ulex gallii – Agrostis curtisii heath, a type most often found in the lowlands, and H12 Calluna vulgaris – Vaccinium myrtillus heath, a predominantly upland type. Calluna – Vaccinium heath generally occupies the steeper, better-drained slopes, with Ulex – Agrostis heath occurring on the lower slopes of the moor. A number of predominantly northern species occur on the southern edge of their national range. Plants found on dry heaths that are rare in southwest England include crowberry Empetrum nigrum and stag’s-horn clubmoss Lycopodium clavatum.

Blanket bogs (* if active bog)  * Priority feature

Dartmoor is the southernmost blanket bog in Europe and is representative of blanket bogs in southwest England. The main vegetation community is M17 Scirpus cespitosus – Eriophorum vaginatum blanket mire. Many of the bogs are dominated by purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea and micro-topography is poorly developed. There are also widespread peat-cuttings, dug by hand in the 19th Century, but these have revegetated and many once again support a healthy cover of Sphagnum bog-mosses. Nevertheless, good areas are frequently encountered that are very wet, support frequent and widespread Sphagnum mosses of a range of species, and display small-scale surface patterning. Of particular note is the rare Sphagnum imbricatum, which occurs at two localities.

Old sessile oak woods with Ilex and Blechnum in the British Isles

Three main areas of oak woodland are included within this site. Wistman’s Wood is notable as a high-altitude relict surviving on a granite clitter slope. Unusually for old oak woods in the UK, it is dominated by pedunculate oak Quercus robur rather than sessile oak Q. petraea. The epiphytic and ground-covering bryophyte flora, with filmy ferns, is species-rich, although there are some indications that some species may have declined in recent years, possibly because as the tree canopy has grown conditions below it have become less humid. Wistman’s Wood has a well-documented record of changes over the last century.

Dendles Wood is dominated by pedunculate oak Q. robur, but with substantial areas of beech Fagus sylvatica on the lower slopes (considered to be a possible outlier of the native range of beech). The ground flora is a mixture of grasses, bracken Pteridium aquilinum, bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta, with locally many boulders supporting a species-rich bryophyte mat. There is a luxuriant epiphytic lichen flora including several rare species. Although selected for its oakwood community, the beechwood is a fragmentary outlier of Ilicio–Fagion.

Black Tor Copse has similarities to Wistman’s Wood, consisting of stunted trees developed on granite clitter. The vascular plant species-richness is limited, with much bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus, hard-fern Blechnum spicant and ivy Hedera helix, but the bryophyte and lichen assemblages are very rich including nationally-rare species and others seldom found outside the uplands of Scotland and Wales.

Species that are a primary reason for selection of this site

Southern damselfly  Coenagrion mercuriale

A valley mire at 280 m altitude supports a southern damselfly Coenagrion mercuriale population of 20–100 individuals, first discovered on the site in 1998. The stronger population occurs in the northern portion of the mire, where springs feed shallow soakways that flow through wet heath. The southern part of the mire has a higher water table with Sphagnum bog-mosses dominating.

Species present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for site selection

Atlantic salmon  Salmo salar

Otter  Lutra lutra

© Crown copyright. All rights reserved. Natural England [2015].