Scary Fact. Did you know that less than 1% of Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Forest remains? Most of the forests that can be found in Scotland today are in fact monoculture, linear plantations of non-native species for purposes of timber and paper production. These include, for example, sitka spruce from Japan and lodge pine from North America.
Fun Fact. Highland Carbon plants WILD forests to restore landscapes to their former splendour. Wild forests are much more beneficial to wildlife. They offer a range of shelter and food opportunities.
How do we do it? We plant a wide range of native species in overlapping bands that replicate the way wild forests naturally form and regenerate. So for examples, aspen and alder at the river’s edge; rowan and birch on the damp margins; beech and oak on the slopes; and eventually Scots pine on the hillsides. On a given project site, we typically plant around a dozen native species.
This is a very different approach from some other carbon offsetting providers who merely plant trees in a grid on arable land without selecting and designing sites for biodiversity impacts.
But isn’t planting forests in the Highlands bad for native deer? Actually, that’s a misconception. Much of the landscape would have been forested prior to the intervention of man. On the Continent, for example, Red deer move through mixed habitat: moorland, glade and forest. This is the same for the North American Elk, the cousin of the Red deer. Deer browse a vast range of plant-life. The greater the plant diversity, the better the habitat for deer.
That said, we protect each planting site with deer fencing for around thirty years, so they don’t become deer salad as saplings. So doing ensures that the trees establish well and thrive before becoming deer habitat.
The hillside and valley forests that we create comprise shelter belts for deer. So they reduce the risk of deer dying from exposure during the worst of the weather. And goodness knows, Scotland has its share of that.
The important thing is to achieve a balance so that each estate can continue to manage their deer populations, farm in the lowlands and yet increase the natural capital of their land holdings.
The result is that the estates become more desirable from a quality of life and tourism perspective.