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Nature Scot, Scotland's nature agency  Their website clarifies what they are all about. 

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are those areas of land and water that we consider best represent our natural heritage in terms of their: 

  • flora – i.e. plants
  • fauna – i.e. animals 
  • geology – i.e. rocks 
  • geomorphology – i.e. landforms 
  • a mixture of these natural features

Scotland has 1,422 SSSIs, covering around 1,011,000 hectares or 12.6% of Scotland’s land area (above mean low water springs). Sites range in size from the very small, like Bo’mains Meadow SSSI, at just under a hectare, to the vast Cairngorms SSSI, which extends to more than 29,000 hectares.

Scotland’s national network of SSSIs forms part of the wider Great Britain SSSI series.

Many SSSIs are also designated as European sites – whether as Special Areas of Conservation or Special Protection Areas.

For more on this, see the link to their website below. 

They note that : It is an offence for anyone to intentionally or recklessly damage the protected natural features of an SSSI. Most SSSIs are in private ownership and we work closely with their owners and managers to ensure:

  • appropriate management of a site’s natural features
  • that all decision-makers are aware of the designation when considering changes in land use or other activities that might affect an SSSI

To identify those SSSIs within West Dunbartonshire, you will unfortunately have to trawl through the list that includes north Glasgow and the greater Dumbarton area on Wiki, but here are some that are relevant. The links that include "index" are cross references to pages within this website. These are not specifically related to the SSSI, but to features in that location. It is possible to find and download pdfs of the citations of some of these by searching online, although direct links to them cannot be provided here. Instead, use the interactive map provided by sitelink for Nature Scot - see link below.

  • Aber Bog, Gartocharn Bog and Bell Moss
  • Auchenreoch Glen 
    • The SSSI citation notes, inter alia : Auchenreoch Glen Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), approximately 1.5km south-east of Bonhill, is a deeply incised valley. In places, bare rock slopes and cliffs give the site the appearance of a gorge. The grassed slopes within the site support calcareous grassland and wet flushes. Both these habitats are species-rich because the chemical composition of the soil is influenced by limestone layers in the bedrock. The calcareous grassland, as a habitat type, is rare in western Scotland and is one of only two examples in Strathclyde and Ayrshire. It is notable for comprising two vegetation communities. On the more stable slopes, mainly in the eastern half of the site, the community is dominated by thyme Thymus polytrichus and false brome Brachypodium sylvaticum. It includes very occasional trees and scrub, and is flanked by extensive, dense stands of bracken.
  • Boturich Woodlands 
    • index.asp?pageid=715975
    • The SSSI citation notes, inter alia : Boturich Woodlands SSSI forms a narrow strip of ancient deciduous woodland along the southern shore of Loch Lomond. It has remained relatively undisturbed and represents some of the best wet woodland and upland mixed ash woodland in west Dunbartonshire. The wood comprises of wet alder wood, base-rich ash woodland and acidic oak/birch woodland. The oak/birch woodland is found on the higher, drier regions of the site, the ash woodland is found on the slopes and the alder woodland fringes the loch shore. There is a well developed understorey in all the woodland types. Below the alder and ash canopy, bird cherry, guelder-rose and willow combine with saplings of ash, birch and alder to form dense thicket cover. Under the oak canopy the understory comprises of holly, hazel, rowan and hawthorn. The field layer is also diverse and contains a colony of the nationally rare elongated sedge, Carex elongata.
  • Dumbarton Muir
  • Dumbarton Rock
    • index.asp?pageid=715659
    • The SSSI citation notes, inter alia : Dumbarton Rock, located south of the town of Dumbarton, is a well-preserved and nationally important example of a volcanic plug of Lower Carboniferous age (around 340 million years ago) composed of hawaiitic basalt. It exhibits well developed columnar jointing forming a pattern which indicates that the plug occupies a cone shaped pipe that narrows downwards. At the margin of the plug hydrothermal chlorite and albite are developed and recent Sr-isotope studies suggest that the margin formed a preferred fluid pathway where an influx of fluids from the country rocks was heated and rose upward along cooling joints.
  • Endrick Mouth and Islands / Endrick Water
    • index.asp?pageid=716277
    • The SSSI citation notes : The Endrick Mouth and Islands Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is located at the south-eastern corner of Loch Lomond. The seven compartments that make up the site include the mainland on both north and south of the Endrick Water and the following five islands; Aber Isle, Clairinsh, Inchcailloch, Torrinch and Creinch. The natural features of the site include river geomorphology and the habitats of upland oak woodlands, flood-plain fen, hydromorphological mire range and open water. These habitats support the natural species of note on this site, which are; breeding bird assemblage, Greenland white-fronted geese Anser albifrons flavirostris, greylag geese Anser anser, vascular plant assemblage, bryophyte assemblage and an assemblage of rare beetles. 
  • Geilston Burn (Cardross, Argyll) 
  • Glenarbuck / Hawcraigs, Glenarbuck
  • Inchmurrin
  • Inner Clyde 
    • index.asp?pageid=716091
    • The SSSI citation notes, inter alia : The Inner Clyde Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) contains the intertidal zone of the Clyde estuary from Clydebank in the east to a line between Helensburgh on the north shore and Greenock on the south shore. The seaward boundary of the site extends as far as Mean Low Water Springs. The site is the most northerly of Britain’s large west coast estuaries used by migrating birds, and is of national importance for its populations of wintering wildfowl and waders and of European importance for its wintering population of redshank. The site also supports a variety of typical estuarine plant communities with good examples of transitions from saltmarshes to brackish swamps and grassland periodically inundated with sea water. The site provides the largest example in west central Scotland of grazed and ungrazed upper saltmarsh with relatively uninterrupted transitions to swamp and grassland vegetation. These transitions are absent from many of the major British estuaries where historical land-claim has led to their disappearance. The most extensive areas of saltmarsh, covering approximately 76 hectares, are found on the north shore between Milton Island and Dumbarton, and on the south shore at Newshot Island and Longhaugh Point. There is also a small area at Ardmore Point. In these areas the low marsh (seaward) vegetation, which is covered at almost every tide, contains large areas of the nationally scarce dwarf eelgrass Zostera noltei.
  • Lang Craigs
  • Loch Humphrey Burn
  • Portnellan - Ross Priory - Claddochside
    • index.asp?pageid=715669
    • The SSSI citation notes, inter alia : During the last two million years, the earth has experienced a cyclical build up and decay of ice every 100,000 years or so, as the climate alternately cooled and warmed. An ice sheet covered most of Scotland during the most recent ice age, from 115,000 to 10,000 years ago. Much of the ice had melted by about 13,000 years ago, but just 2,000 years later the climate cooled again and the ice readvanced one last time. (The Loch Lomond Readvance). During this 2,000-year period, the earth’s crust was still depressed locally, by the sheer weight of ice which had been on it. When the ice sheet melted, water which had been locked up as ice was released causing sea levels to rise. The sea invaded Loch Lomond, producing distinct shorelines and backing cliffs in places, and depositing shelly estuarine clays. Then, between 11,000 and 10,000 years ago, during the Loch Lomond Readvance, a glacier moved across the Loch Lomond area and deposited tills (glacial debris). When this glacier melted, the sea invaded once again forming a second shoreline. Since then both shorelines have been left ‘high and dry’ as the earth’s crust slowly rebounded due to the weight of the ice being removed. The earlier ‘raised’ shoreline is clearly visible on the foreshore at Ross Priory. At Portnellan, shelly tills deposited by the Loch Lomond Readvance glacier cover the raised shoreline and backing cliff. All this provides clear evidence that the shoreline was formed before till was deposited by the readvancing glacier. At Claddochside the shelly estuarine clays (known as the Clyde Beds) which were deposited after the last ice sheet melted, are well exposed. The raised shoreline has been cut into these clays, which are, in turn, covered by glacial debris. Post-glacial raised shorelines (formed after all the ice had melted) can be seen at Portnellan and Ross Priory, some 12 metres above present sea levels and several metres above today’s loch levels. Sediments and landforms within these sites provide a detailed history of the glacial and associated sea level changes in the area over the last 13,000 years, since the last Scottish ice-sheet melted.
  • West Loch Lomondside Woodlands

This is an extract from the NatureScot interactive map for West Dunbartonshire and the broader context. ©

The Clyde opposite Havoc Hole at low tide. This view looking across towards Greenock with the Holy Loch in the distance illsustrates the connectivity of all aspects of our coast envirnment. The relevant SSSI here follows the shoreline from Clydebank all along until Ardmore Point on the north side of the channel and is mirrored on the south side. Every large blimp in the mud is a rock covered with seaweeds. Every small one is a sand organism which will be roused by the incoming tide and attract a myriad of shore birds.

NATURE SCOT website : https://www.nature.scot/professional-advice/protected-areas-and-species/protected-areas/national-designations/sites-special-scientific-interest-sssis


WIKIWAND : https://www.wikiwand.com/en/List_of_Sites_of_Special_Scientific_Interest_in_Dumbarton_and_North_Glasgow

WOODLAND TRUST : https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2019/03/sssi-definition/

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