Seeing the trees

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Roy Turnbull (Letters, 14 May) is wrong when he claims that there is almost no broadleaf regeneration, no seed source and that felling by humans is the cause of woodland loss in the Ryvoan area of the Abernethy National Nature Reserve.

The RSPB environmental statement accompanying its request for planting approval states that there are already 44,233 browsed (eaten by deer) young broadleaves on suitable sites in the enrichment zone it is planting, and shows photographs of some by the Ryvoan Bothy. They have come from the nearby mature trees in the Pass of Ryvoan, the gully behind the Bothy, stands at the Dams area (which include aspen and holly), and the Nethy riverside. These and many seedlings were extant when I carried out my official published surveys, mapping and tree stand classification for Scottish Natural Heritage in the late 1980s, before RSPB purchased the area, but most were browsed until deer pressure was reduced by them.

The acid nature of the soils and rank heather/moss are the main inhibiting factors, along with pinewood dynamics, which favour pine over broadleaves in initial colonisation. Strath Nethy is well within the range of seeding from mature pines. It has many seedlings, but they are severely browsed. The RSPB has confirmed 800 hectares of self-seeded pine in the regeneration area.

Recent photographs issued by RSPB show thriving and cost-free young pines below mature trees, so why resort to planting at high public expense? This is not part of the degraded treeless hills Roy Turnbull mentions.

Basil Dunlop

Ben A’an
Grantown-on-Spey

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