Extra 20,000 trees for Highland nature reserve


Some 20,000 trees will be planted in and around Beinn Eighe, Highland, next year to help expand native woodlands in Scotland's National Nature Reserves (NNRs).

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) made the commitment at the start of the Scottish Climate Week to build on a long-running tree planting programme at its Wester Ross reserve.

Scots Pines at Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve (Lorne Gill / SNH).

Woodland expansion is part of the solution to the climate emergency, helping to increase biodiversity, conserve Scottish species and help our society and economy adapt to climate change, for example by reducing potential for flooding and reducing the effects of heatwaves.

Beinn Eighe, with its stunning ancient Caledonian pine forest, was designated as the UK's first NNR in 1951. Since its establishment, some 800,000 trees have been planted at the reserve. Most have been Scots Pine, as well as additional broadleaf species such as birch, aspen, holly, rowan and oak.

The lack of trees in the formerly well-forested entirety of Britain was underlined by this week's Extinct Rebellion protests. Activists created what they called a 'fledgling forest” in the shape of the island from 1,000 potted saplings and labelled individual trees as personal gifts to every MP in Parliament. Many MPs have yet to take up the offer.

Some of the thousands of trees awaiting planting in the tree nursery at Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve (Doug Bartholomew / SNH).

On the ground, the Highland tree planting is designed to supplement wider management work to encourage natural regeneration at Beinn Eighe NNR and Creag Meagaidh NNR, which allows the woodlands to expand by natural ecological processes in the presence of wild deer.

Meanwhile, Rum NNR marked one million trees planted on the island back in 1997 by announcing that the full benefit of these trees is now being realised, including the build-up of natural seed sources around the reserve.

The precious native woodlands in SNH's nature reserves capture a total of more than 30,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases annually – the equivalent of removing around 10,000 vehicles from the roads every year. The economic value of this carbon sequestration was estimated to be around £2.2 million in 2017.

New growth on Scots Pine sapling, Beinn Eighe (Laurie Campbell / SNH).

Stuart MacQuarrie, SNH Head of Nature Reserves, said: "Beinn Eighe is renowned for its beautiful ancient pinewoods and we have long managed the reserve to expand and enhance this special woodland.

"Planting a further 20,000 native trees will help increase the nature reserve's biodiversity, restore habitats to healthy ecosystems and provide greater resilience against the effects of climate change.

"Nature-based solutions such as woodland expansion are a crucial part of the solution to the global climate emergency, and this is another important step towards ensuring a nature-rich future for Scotland."

Tree cover is carefully managed to ensure it is not lost on other SNH reserves, unless there are good ecological reasons, for example if trees are encroaching on peatland restoration. SNH is also looking to expand native woodland at Invereshie & Inshriach NNR through natural regeneration.

The Beinn Eighe Ridge and temperature inversion (Lorne Gill / SNH).