FORESTRY and Land Scotland (FLS) has been re-spacing trees that have started to repopulate a recently felled site in Aberdeenshire.

The cleared site in Gartly Forest had begun to be re-seeded naturally from neighbouring trees, reulting in germinated seeds growing either too close together or too far apart.

Those trees, if left unmanaged, would not grow to their optimum potential so the FLS team stepped in to lend a hand.

FLS forester, Niall Justice, explained: “Managing our restocking by letting nature do the work means we can minimise the pressure on our nursery by reducing the demand for new trees. It also reduces ground disturbance.

“The downside is that we have to come in and re-space the young trees. And after a two-year period has lapsed we have to step in again and manually select the trees to keep and which have to be thinned out in order to end up with the crop type we want.”

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He continued: “Natural regeneration of sites is something that we have done for many years but we tended to work with whatever established. Doing this work to ensure that we get the best crop more closely mimics the outcome of normal clear-felling and restocking but without the need for expensive new plants and ground disturbance.

“We have to balance the lower environmental impact with the fact that we’re having to put in some fairly resource-intensive effort to help get things right.

“However, we are looking to increase the adoption of this approach to our re-stock at environmentally sensitive sites.”

Considered on a site-by-site basis, FLS’s Aberdeenshire team currently applies the technique to around 50 ha of natural regeneration a year but is hoping to increase this to around 200ha – one third of the area that FLS fells annually in the north east.

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