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The Great Trossachs Forest

Submitted by Hamish Mackintosh 15th May 2014 16:36


Copyright Isobel Cameron, Forestry Commission Picture Library

This 200 year partnership project will transform the landscape from exploited, heavily grazed land and plantation forestry to a more natural mix of resilient habitats, helping wildlife adapt to climate change. The restored landscape also offers recreational opportunities for all, alongside educational and research opportunities.


The problem

Climate change is altering the suitability of certain habitats for native species. The problem is exacerbated by habitat fragmentation which hinders species movement through shifts in climate envelopes. Creating large areas of high quality habitat helps these species to adapt in the face of climate change.


Background

The project, which involves several partner organisations operating under the Scottish Forestry Alliance banner, has created a 4,400 hectare corridor of native woodland and aims, in the long term, to expand this area to 16,500 hectares of forest and open ground containing a mix of habitats. This will help restore ecosystems which have been damaged by over-grazing and human exploitation to a more natural state.

 Specifically the project has:

  • Undertaken ground surveys to develop an understanding of the local ecology, archaeology and cultural heritage.
  • Started to remove non-native species such as Sitka spruce and Rhododendron. Planting was carried out in some areas and conditions were created to allow natural regeneration in others.
  • New access paths were built around Loch Katrine and linking Brig o’ Turk to the Lendrick Hill car park.
  • Over 1 million trees have been planted at Loch Katrine and Loch Arklet.
  • An art and literature trail was installed, which celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the Trossachs.
  • The new paths, the Old Military Road and the Statute Labour Road were completed- linking Stronachlachar to Inversnaid and Aberfoyle.
  • Developed an outdoor learning resource for secondary schools in conjunction with Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

Future work

The aim of the project is to complete the woodland corridor. By the end of Spring 2014, just over 80 hectares of new woodland will be created at the western end. To the eastern end of the project, over 200 hectares of new woodland (by planting and natural regeneration) will be created at three sites within the Glen Finglas Estate by the end of 2015. The programme of non-native species removal, invasive species removal and managing grazing levels is continuing to create a natural mosaic of natural habitats.

 

Lessons Learnt and project outcomes

The project has been a great success thus far with many positive outcomes including:

  • Fragments of existing woodland being linked to create wildlife corridors and new areas of woodland created through planting of native trees and managing grazing to allow natural regeneration:
  • Many species utilise the area which includes five Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), three Special Areas of Conservation and two National Scenic Areas. Of particular note are:

o   Black grouse numbers increased substantially and have subsequently stabilised.

o   Pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly identified in 2011 for the first time in 25 years.

o   Water voles have been successfully reintroduced to the wider area after a 30 year absence and their territories are expanding.

o   Pine martens, red squirrels, otters and several birds of prey (Golden eagle, buzzard, osprey, merlin etc.) present in strong numbers

 There have been several lessons learnt during the course of the project including.

  • Landscape scale restoration and the 200 year vision is a difficult concept to grasp for people due to the size and temporal scale involved.
  • Trust and honesty between partner organisations is essential, with knowledge-transfer and sharing expertise being of key importance. This helps when having to deal with contentious issues such herbivore management.

The Policy Context

There are four main points that the project has highlighted in relation to policy:

  1. Defining the project’s legacy after funding has ceased is essential. 
  2. Current funding opportunities are short in timescale and time consuming to apply for. Neither are sufficient when working on this temporal and geographical timescale.
  3. Many landscape partnerships and organisations conserving at a large scale are faced with the same contentious issues. At key points, having a clear steer from a central organisation who can direct, guide and advise on this issues would be beneficial.


Copyright Shirley Leek, Forestry Commission Picture Library

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