Four sealochs, Lochs Laxford, Inchard, Broom and Little Loch Broom were surveyed between the 10th and 22nd May 1991 based on board the 59' charter vessel M.V.
Salutay. The UMBSM/MNCR survey team were joined by a second group of MNCR and NCCS staff who conducted the littoral part of the survey in Lochs Laxford and Inchard. Loch Laxford and Inchard are the most northwesterly lochs on the Scottish mainland, situated in the Sutherland district of the Highlands. Loch Inchard is a simple fjordic loch with a single basin wheras Loch Laxford has more complex fjardic characteristics, with numerous small islands and side branches. The rugged countryside surrounding the lochs is sparsely popuplated, although Kinlochbervie harbour, in Loch Inchard, has recently been modernised. Loch Broom and Little Loch Broom have greater surface areas than the above two lochs and are situated further to the south in Ross and Cromarty. Both lochs are fjordic with nearly straight sides and have 3 and 2 basins respectively. The Summer Isles, situated a few miles to the west, shelter the entrance to Loch Broom, making it a suitable anchorage for heavy shipping including large Russian fishing ships known as
Klondykers. Ullapool is the most northwesterly town on the mainland and has the roles of fishing port and mainland link with the Outer Hebrides. The ferry to Stornoway on Lewis runs twice daily during the summer and smaller boats take tourists on day trips to the Summer Isles. Shellfish and salmonid farms are present throughout all the lochs in this group, although not all the leased sites listed by the Crown Estates Commission were occupied at the time of the survey. Loch Laxford is a Marine Consultation Area and part of the loch shore is included in the Laxford SSSI. Previous survey work in the area includes littoral studies by Lewis (1957), Powell et al. (1980) and Smith (1978, 1981), and sublittoral studies by Smith (1985) and Gubbay and Nunn (1988). Eighty-five sites in total were surveyed by the two groups of which 62 were sublittoral and 23 were littoral; 37 habitat/community types were described, a large proportion of which were found in Lochs Laxford, a'Chadh-fi, Dughaill and the nearby lochans Loch an Râ¢in and Loch Ceann na Sâ¦ile. Overall, there was a wide variety of communities on the full spectrum of wave-exposure and tidal stream strengths. The communities in the outer parts of Lochs Laxford, Inchard and Little Loch Broom had several factors in common including areas of heavily grazed bedrock and boulders with Laminaria hyperborea leading down to sand and coarse muddy sediment. There was a gradual transition from the exposed L.hyperborea dominated rocky substrata to L.saccharina forests in the more sheltered regions of the lochs, except in Loch Broom where sheltered L.saccharina forests predominated. The sill communities on a mixture of boulders and sediment in Little Loch Broom were surveyed briefly but were found to support a wide range of groups of species including Leptometra celtica, Psolus phantapus and a variety of hydroids, bryozoans and nudibranchs. A few species were found in large numbers but with a limited distribution, for examples, Protanthea simplex attached to the tubes of Chaetopterus variopedatus in Loch inchard, Limaria hians beds in Loch Broom and Little Loch Broom and Funiculina quadrangularis on deep mud in Loch Broom. Some of the shallower mud communities in Loch a'Chadh-fi supported dense Sagartiogeton laceratus along with Lumpenus lampraetiformis. Records currently considered sensitive have been removed from this dataset.