Carbon debating

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Joe Dorward (Letters, 27 March) insists that only where native trees are established by natural regeneration, rather than by planting, can the result be regarded as “Caledonian Forest”.

Is that an essential concern in a Scotland where the Caledonian Forest has been lost from more than 98 per cent of its former range, and where there presently appears to be little prospect of it returning over much of that range due to lack of seed and excessive grazing pressure?

Is it appropriate in a world with an overwhelming need to sequestrate as much carbon, as soon as possible, into vegetation and soils so as to mitigate the worst excesses of climate change?

“Had we but world enough, and time,” (as Andrew Marvell mused in a different context) then we might happily remove sheep and reduce deer numbers for the centuries required for the forest to creep back to areas remote from seed sources.

Alternatively, the establishment of islands of native woodland, planted by volunteers, particularly in areas dominated by sporting estates, achieves a number of good objectives: it provides a future seed source for later natural regeneration; it demonstrates to landowners what is possible in formerly barren areas; and it involves people and provides political momentum to woodland restoration.

If the Scottish Government and people come to the view that the imperative of reducing net carbon emissions and the benefits of extensive native woodland restoration in terms of wildlife, landscape and reducing flooding mean that the era of overgrazed and denuded uplands must end, then many would rejoice, and more emphasis could be placed on the best method: natural regeneration.

But we ain’t there yet.

Meanwhile, undue insistence in favour of regeneration rather than planting may be in danger of making the best the enemy of the good.

Roy Turnbull

Nethy Bridge

Inverness-shire