Trees have a remarkable ability to remove harmful surplus CO2 from the atmosphere. They trap the carbon in their biomass: trunks, branches, roots, leaves, flowers and seeds. So doing, they convert CO2 into the building blocks of all life on earth: carbon, oxygen and water.
Forests also bring additionality. They have a mysticism and romance. They enhance nature and benefit wildlife. They help to cleanse the air locally. They mitigate impacts of storm activity, such as high winds and flooding. By reducing runoff, they contribute to clean water. In the case of Scotland, so benefiting salmon spawning rivers, mussel farms, langoustines and in some cases Scotch production. They bring much needed forestry jobs to the most remote communities such as tree planting, deer fence building and forestry management. They bring a wildness back to the land which benefits rare wildlife, for example, proving nesting sites to white tailed eagles and osprey. They provide much needed shelter belts to deer, which reduces the risk of exposure to extreme whether in the mountains. Red deer living on the continent, for example, reside significantly in woodland. Tourism is one of the leading sectors in the Scottish economy with many visitors exploring the Highlands. So reforestation offers very real 'natural capital' value towards the economy.
Less than 1% of the once vast Caledonian forest remains. This presents a world-class opportunity for forest carbon offsetting. The Scottish Highlands are admired worldwide as a dramatic, rugged landscape.
The Highlands have been named by the Endangered Landscape Programme as one of the most important ecosystems in Europe. Scenic vistas make an inspiring back drop to our planting sites. We go about our work in the following ways:
establishing forests in remote landscapes like the Cairngorms, Western Highlands and Sutherland
working within a robust conservation framework
natural planting schemes, not linear rows
a range of native trees to restore habitats to their former glory
conservation projects such as rare seed banks, re-wilding initiatives and rare tree reintroduction
each site is protected by a robust deer fence until the seedlings are large enough to survive browsing, typically 25 years
provide robust reporting, communications and PR support
Forests are the lungs of the planet. Once established, they continue to regenerate and to draw down CO2 from the atmosphere forever. So doing, they will help society to one day achieve 'Draw Down', the point at which more CO2 is being removed from the atmosphere than emitted.
Permanence is achieved in two ways. For larger partnerships we purchase the land on which the trees are planted to establish nature reserves. For the remainder of partnerships we enter a legally binding profit sharing arrangement with owners of large Highland estates in which they forgo the right to remove the newly planted forests. In either case, a woodland insurance policy is taken out by Highland Carbon. Any trees lost to fire, for example, would be replaced. This is a low risk in a temperate rainforest.
Whereas tropical rainforests cannot be restored to their former glory, temperate forests can be. We operate in the UK where there is a robust forestry regulatory framework, tree auditing and active site management. Because we plant trees at scale, we can offer a very competitive price point.
Due to the Highland Clearances, the Highlands are largely depopulated, and under no pressure from population growth, firewood collecting or urban sprawl. So there is no risk of encroachment and with protected areas becoming isolated pockets, as there is in other parts of the world. Rather, they are surrounded by vast, wild open spaces. A low risk, inspiring outcome for generations to come.