Scotland’s ‘ice age’ pinewoods on knife-edge, says first major study in 60 years - Trees for Life

© Trees for Life
© Trees for Life

Most of Scotland’s globally-unique Caledonian pinewoods are on a ‘knife-edge’ and could become the last generation in a line stretching back to the last ice age, says the first major study into their health for over 60 years.

A four-year analysis by Trees for Life found that high deer numbers, spread of non-native conifers, lack of long-term management, and emerging impacts of climate breakdown are major threats to the pinewoods’ survival.

The woodlands form a rich habitat found nowhere else in the world, and some are thousands of years old. They are home to declining wildlife such as red squirrels, capercaillie and crossbills.

Urgent action needs to include dedicated and easily accessible long-term funding, so private landowners can save and restore their pinewoods and look after them in the future, says Trees for Life.

The rewilding charity is also calling for full implementation of proposed national measures to reduce deer numbers, as well as action to allow the pinewoods to expand into cooler areas – such as higher up mountains – in response to climate change.

“Our findings are an alarm bell for Scotland’s Caledonian pinewoods, which are such an important part of the country’s culture and environment. The majority of the surviving fragments are now on a knife-edge, and bold action is needed to save them from being lost forever,” said Steve Micklewright, Trees for Life’s Chief Executive. “A landscape-scale approach backed by the Scottish Government is urgently needed to save, expand and connect up these precious woodlands before it is too late.”

Only some 42,000 acres of the original pinewoods survive. Over the past four years, Trees for Life assessed the state of 72 of the remaining 84 fragments, which are scattered across the Highlands from Loch Lomond, northwards to near Ullapool, and eastwards to Glen Ferrick near Aberdeen.

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Posted On: 02/02/2023

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