A groundbreaking bid to help save Scotland’s almost-vanished mountaintop woodland and their wildlife is being launched by Trees for Life. This will be with the creation in the Highlands of what is thought will be the country’s largest planted area of rare high-altitude woodland.
Centuries of overgrazing by sheep and deer have left most of Scotland stripped of the once-common, tough, waist-high trees.
In a major expansion of action to reverse the loss of these unique woodlands Trees for Life is establishing a 700-acre mountaintop woodland of 100,000 trees at its Dundreggan Conservation Estate in Glenmoriston near Loch Ness.
This month Trees for Life has erected its largest-ever enclosure – a fence designed to protect young trees by keeping grazing animals out – at the site, supported by funding from the Scottish Natural Heritage Biodiversity Challenge Fund.
The conservation charity’s volunteers will begin the first phase of planting next spring. Trees including downy willow and dwarf birch will be planted on the higher ground, and Scots pine and juniper on the lower slopes. Further planting will continue over the next few years, and self-seeded saplings will also be able to thrive in the grazing-free exclosure.
The initiative will also see the return of plants including wood cranesbill, globeflower and alpine sowthistle, in turn supporting mammals, birds, and pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies.
It will benefit people too, with the new forest helping to tackle climate change by locking away carbon dioxide, and reduce flooding by improving the soil’s capacity to retain water.
Because such high woodlands take longer to establish than those in sheltered locations, the project is long-term. It will take 50 to 100 years before the forest is fully established, if grazing levels are kept low.
To donate and help create the Carn na Caorach woodland, see www.treesforlife.org.uk/appeal.