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Camera traps reveal wildlife comeback at Alladale Wilderness Reserve

Since 2020, the European Nature Trust has been funding camera trapping surveys at Alladale Wilderness Reserve in partnership with Mossy Earth, to gather detailed information on species abundance and distribution on the reserve. Mossy Earth have released results from a three-month survey conducted at Alladale this summer.

Camera Trap surveys demonstrate early value of Alladale’s restoration

During the survey, cameras accumulated 2,538 days of filming, with 3,895 videos capturing wildlife. An impressive 56 species were recorded across Alladale’s diverse habitats, including a number of species of conservation concern, such as the golden eagle, black grouse, dotterel, mountain hare, pine marten and red squirrel.

The recorded species abundance differed between habitats: grasslands recorded 33 species, broadleaf forests recorded 32, pinewoods 28 and heathlands only 14. The higher species density in woodland and grassland habitat, as compared to heathland, gives an early indication of the biodiversity value of restoring diverse forests and grasslands.

Species diversity was similar between young regenerating forest habitats (<30 years old) and mature forest, suggesting that regeneration efforts can provide suitable habitat for mammals and birds in a relatively short period of time.

Further work will build scientific consensus on Alladale’s restoration

In the coming months, MSc student Charlotte from the University of the West of England will use camera trapping data as part of a suite of experimental tools to further determine the value of restoration work at Alladale. Over time, the intention is to repeat surveys to monitor changes in species abundance and richness over time as habitats continue to regenerate. Targeted trapping surveys are planned, including surveys of Alladale’s growing populations of mountain hare and pine marten.

Such surveys are essential to guide future conservation efforts at Alladale, enabling ecologists to track the impacts of Alladale’s restoration. As a pioneer, Alladale is committed to sharing results with other landowners and projects to build knowledge and best practices.

Discover more about camera trapping work at Alladale with NatureSpy

About Alladale’s ecological restoration:

Alladale Wilderness Reserve is the site of a pioneering effort to restore the Caledonian Forest of the Highlands – a wilderness expanse, lost to agricultural expansion over the centuries. Beginning in 2003, restoration efforts have seen nearly a million native saplings replanted, which are already having a beneficial impact on Alladale’s diversity of birds and mammals, transforming monotonous heathland into rejuvenating, diverse forest habitats.

 Tree planting initiatives are part of a holistic approach to the restoration of the damaged Highland ecosystem: vast tracts of peatlands have been restored; red squirrels have been reintroduced; a breeding programme for the Scottish Wildcat has been established; grazing and trampling has been reinstated; and white-tailed and golden eagle numbers have soared. Alladale’s vision is for a restored Highland ecosystem, where species return to replenished habitats, regulating the landscape through natural ecological processes.
Discover more about alladale's restoration
Acknowledgements

TENT is grateful to Mossy Earth for providing support with data processing and analysis, and to NatureSpy for their provision of camera trap supplies and support during fieldwork.

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