FELLING and replacing over-mature conifers with native species will protect Scotland's woodlands for the future, the country's environment minister has said. 

Mairi McAllan also highlighted the importance of steep ground work during a visit to Forestry and Land Scotland’s (FLS) timber harvesting site at Grotaig (near Invermoriston on the banks of Loch Ness) yesterday. 

One of several locations in the A82 Project, its over-mature conifers - many of which are more than 100-years-old - are at a high risk of being blown over by storm winds. An incident at Grotaig could affect the road, power lines and fibre optic cabling that would have far reaching consequences over weeks – or even months – of recovery time. 

Forestry Journal: L-R: Mairi McAllan, Ian Allsopp (FLS Assistant Delivery Manager), Calum Duffy (Duffy Skylining) and Alex MacLeod (FLS North Region Manager)L-R: Mairi McAllan, Ian Allsopp (FLS Assistant Delivery Manager), Calum Duffy (Duffy Skylining) and Alex MacLeod (FLS North Region Manager)

Ms McAllan said: “The recent storms that have battered Scotland illustrate the pressing need to make adaptations to our national forests that will limit, as far as possible, the risk of damage and disruption.

“By planting new forests and woodland with a greater variety of species in a less uniform structure, we are adapting our forests to make them more resilient in the face of coming challenges.

“The adaptation work under way in the Steep Ground Programme will also help to protect Scotland’s infrastructure and so limit the negative impacts of  changing climate. This will benefit local communities, businesses, our emergency services and the rural economy and will also help to create woodland corridors to increase Scotland’s biodiversity network."

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FLS’s adaptation work includes the woodland creation programme at the Rest and Be Thankful in Argyll and adapting forests by planting a greater mix of species at different times to create a patchwork of forests of uneven height – actions that will help to dissipate wind gusts and offer greater protection for the forest.

Ms McAllan added: “FLS’ adaptation programme, which was praised in the recently published Climate Change Committee report, illustrates well how action taken now will protect Scotland’s forests, biodiversity and infrastructure well into the future.”