Tree planting project awarded £125,000

Western glen affric copyright sarah kent

Glen Affric. Copyright Sarah Kent

The money will be used to return “wee trees” to Glen Affric 

30th July 2020 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

A tree-planting project in the Highlands has been awarded £125,000 from the Scottish Government's Biodiversity Challenge Fund.  

Trees for Life’s West Affric Woodland Habitat Expansion project aims to reverse the loss of the tough, waist-high “wee trees” such as dwarf birch and downy willow, which were once widespread in Scotland but have now almost vanished following centuries of overgrazing by sheep and deer.

Known as montane species because they can grow near mountain summits, these trees form wildlife-rich high-altitude forests found between lower-lying woodlands and mountaintop heaths.

“With this funding from the Biodiversity Challenge Fund we can begin to ensure the return of these special wee trees to their mountaintop homes in western Glen Affric,” said Steve Micklewright, Trees for Life’s chief executive.

He added: “Now sadly missing from much of the Scottish Highlands, these precious high-altitude trees are a vital part of the Caledonian Forest. They provide a natural and biologically-rich link between glens, and offer a fantastic source of food, shade and shelter for wildlife.”

Working in partnership with the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), Trees for Life will plant clusters of the trees within deer-proof enclosures to secure a seed source for the future, and which will provide a habitat for species such as golden eagle, ring ouzel and mountain hare. The new woodlands will also benefit people by helping to tackle climate change by locking away carbon dioxide, and reducing flooding by improving the soil’s capacity to retain water.

Willie Fraser, NTS property manager for West Affric and Kintail, said: "We're delighted to be working in partnership with Trees for Life on this positive conservation project, because there's a real urgency to bringing these precious 'wee trees' back from the brink. They're sadly all too rare now, but they form a wonderful habitat on which a wide range of wildlife depends."

The initiative is one of 16 successful projects across Scotland announced in the second round of the £4m Biodiversity Challenge Fund. The projects will take practical steps to improve natural habitats, safeguard plant and animal species, and improve biodiversity.