REWILDING THE HIGHLANDS
Alladale Wilderness Reserve is home to several pockets of original Caledonian Forest. Its ancient pines once covered a large part of the Scottish Highlands but now only a few of these woodland copses remain across the UK, and they are particularly vulnerable to grazing animals.
Scotland’s long history of deforestation and land clearance severely reduced the size of the forest and the widespread introduction of sheep and large increase in numbers of red deer ensured that once the forest was cleared, it could not return. Scotland’s unnaturally high red deer population remains one of the greatest threats to forest regeneration.
The remaining patches of Caledonian Forest are composed of old trees reaching the end of their lifespans, and these trees will die out unless new trees are established in their place. As old trees die, the forest continues to diminish, and so urgent action is required to save and restore the Caledonian Forest for future generations.
The European Nature Trust has contributed to the reforestation efforts at Alladale Wilderness Reserve, where 600 hectares of new woodland have been planted with over 900,000 native trees.
The native species mix includes: Scots pine, birch, juniper, oak, rowan, alder, willow, aspen, holly, hawthorn and hazel. The trees will, in time, provide the seed bank for wider natural regeneration, and allow a great variety of animal life to thrive.
Peatlands are the greatest terrestrial carbon sink on the planet, storing more carbon than all the world’s forests and vegetation combined. In the 1960s and 1970s, drainage systems were implemented across the Highlands in an attempt to improve grazing opportunities for sheep, deer and cattle. The scheme all but removed the carbon sequestering potential of the peatlands.
Over the past few years a pioneering scheme was implemented across the Reserve to reverse the degradation by blocking ditches and restoring peatlands. In conjunction with the Highland Cattle initiative, this conservation work has seen a marked increase in biodiversity across the Reserve.
In partnership with Alladale Wilderness Reserve, The European Nature Trust is now planning next phase of habitat restoration which is due to take place in 2019.