Glen Garry LSER case study

glen-garry-lser-mapKey facts

Partners: FCS (Forest Enterprise Scotland, L ochaber Forest District).

Extent: c.16,000ha

Habitats and species: Native pinewood; birch; montane scrub; relict woodland features; heather moorland; transitional mosaics. Red squirrel; black grouse.

Duration: Iterative, in parallel with Forest Design Plan cycles.

Monitoring: Through revision of Forest Design Plans.

Introduction

Led by Lochaber Forest District, the Glen Garry project features:

  • native woodland restoration;
  • restructuring and redesign of existing productive woodlands;
  • extensive biodiversity enhancement through habitat management.

The project is at a relatively early stage, but has the potential to develop into an exemplar LSER project in the context of a working forest. It combines significant areas of productive forestry with areas of high quality native pinewood, birch woodland and montane scrub, as well as important open ground habitats. Work to inform development of ecosystem restoration at Glengarry had been underway for a number of years, but the project only got off the ground when organisational restructuring meant that a forest manager was provided with the time and resources to implement it.

The project area has no significant natural heritage designations beyond those associated with remnants of Caledonian pinewoods.

Aims and objectives

  1. Improving the condition and configuration of the native woodland area to improve habitat networks and enhance resilience to climate change.
  2. Enhancing biodiversity through habitat management and facilitating species expansion.
  3. Improving forest design to enhance future timber resources through forest expansion.

Approach to restoration

The Garry pinewood expansion project represents an attempt to ‘mainstream’ LSER-type principles through the Forest Design Plan process. Efforts will focus on identifying and restoring relict woodland features (including Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites), creating links between existing native pinewood blocks at a landscape scale and establishing methodologies for deer management and fencing. The project area includes a wide range of habitat zones encompassing the transition from close to sea level to summits of over 3000 feet. There will be three main components – productive forestry on lower ground, areas of native woodland including Scots Pine, and a montane zone where there will be a transition through dwarf scrub to a natural treeline.

Deer management to protect natural regeneration of woodland and prevent overgrazing of open ground habitats is critical to ensuring successful restoration. A new fence is being constructed to include a large area for woodland expansion, regeneration and the inclusion of a range of open ground habitats. Deer management has been carried out in cooperation with neighbouring estates.

Key issues

Benefits and Ecosystem services

The overall aim is to combine timber production with large scale restoration of native woodland. This will “blur of the distinction” between productive and native woodland, with different areas recognised and managed for the different types of benefit they produce. The project has identified the potential to manage native woodlands at small scale such as birch as a source of woodfuel (logs and woodchips).

Enhancement of open ground and montane habitats, and their associated species is a priority. Although the project is at an early stage, there has been some consideration of the wider benefits delivered by the restoration work, such as carbon sequestration.

Constraints

Small–scale working of native woods is problematic because of the regulatory requirements, particularly in terms of the use of equipment and health and safety. There are also few contractors set up to work at this small scale. The difficulty in getting this aspect of the project off the ground is seen as limiting some of the local economic and social benefits.

The scale of upland woodland restoration is likely to raise some challenges in terms of planting techniques on areas of shallow soil, crags and cliff lines.
The availability of native pine seeds of suitable provenance is limited, with few local nurseries and concerns about the spread of red-band needle blight from nurseries further afield. Climate change means that seed provenance will need to take account of the likely increase in winter rainfall, focusing for example on more western sources of seed and plant stock.

Key lessons

  • Remnant native woodlands of all types were under-recorded, emphasising the importance of good site knowledge and survey to influence the pattern of habitat restoration.
  • The need for advanced planning to ensure supply of appropriate native tree seed and plants, especially in relation to ongoing tree disease problems in nurseries.
  • The elevations of current upper forest edge do not constitute ecological treelines, but were determined by the economic growth requirements of conifers and past FCS fencing practice.