There has been considerable correspondence about the planting of trees in or close to Caledonian pinewood remnants such as Abernethy, where the RSPB has announced plans for re-instating the woodland’s missing broadleaved tree component by planting 100,000 trees.
This is an important and much-needed step towards restoring the full biological diversity of these iconic woodlands.
The disappearance of many of their broadleaved trees has led to the loss of specialist species that depend on them.
Although good regeneration of Scots pine is now occurring in at least some of the Caledonian pinewoods, this is not the case for the more palatable broadleaved trees, which is why planting is important and necessary.
It appears that tree planting has gained a bad name in some quarters, perhaps due to past commercial forestry practices that have resulted in the linear, single species phalanxes of non-native conifers.
This is unfortunate, as it’s a far cry from the tree planting carried out by organisations such as the RSPB and Trees for Life.
We seek to replicate nature, with an irregular, variedly spaced distribution of trees, grown from seed collected from a wide range of local trees, mimicking how the trees would recover by themselves, if the over-abundance of herbivores were not preventing that.
I agree with critics that some new native woodland schemes funded by the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP), which have used intensive forestry techniques such as machine mounding to create a linear, regular appearance to the planted woodlands, are not appropriate for the ecological restoration of natural forests. I hope the upcoming revision to the SRDP scheme will apply tighter guidelines to correct this.
However, in areas such as the western part of Glen Affric, where Trees for Life planted trees 23 years ago, it is already impossible to distinguish between those which regenerated naturally and those which were planted.
What matters is that they will have an expanded habitat to thrive in once again, and they will be part of a restored, healthy and vibrant Caledonian Forest that will be enjoyed for generations to come.
Alan Watson Featherstone
Trees for Life
Carol Evans (Letters, 15 April) demonstrates a stunning lack of understanding about the Caledonian Forest issue at Abernethy Forest.
In spite of being the Scottish Director of the Woodland Trust she confuses the terms Native Pinewood and Caledonian Pinewood and over-emphasises the significance of broadleaved species in Caledonian Pinewoods.
She appears unburdened by the knowledge that the Caledonian Forest forms “an unbroken, 9,000-year chain of natural evolution” while the term native pinewood can be applied to any plantation of Scots pines.
Broadleaved species are not “equally important components within this habitat”.
They will grow, as they already are growing, in Caledonian Pinewoods wherever the soil type is suitable – there is no scientific justification for planting them.
The RSPB intentions towards the Caledonian Forest remnant in its care shows an astonishing contempt for, and impatience with, natural processes.
The Caledonian Forest remnant at Abernethy should be left to regenerate and expand naturally – the RSPB and its apologists are on the wrong side of this issue.
I used to think that people who cared a great deal about trees were relaxed, hippyish folk, but based on some of the letters you have published in recent days I can see how very wrong I was.