Landscape-scale ecosystem restoration in Scotland

There are 30-40 projects across Scotland that appear to fit well with LSER; these are shown on the map of LSER projects in Scotland and on this table of potential LSER projects.

Projects are spread across Scotland, with a concentration in the eastern and central Highlands. This reflects the fact that projects have tended to be initiated in areas with large expanses of semi-natural habitats, particularly native woodland. In addition, land in the Highlands has lower opportunity costs compared with better agricultural land elsewhere; and the large landholdings that make LSER projects more feasible.

Who is carrying out projects?

  • Conservation charities: Trees for Life, RSPB, Woodland Trust, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Borders Forest Trust and National Trust for Scotland own and manage 15 projects. RSPB’s ‘Futurescapes’ and Scottish Wildlife Trust’s ‘Living Landscapes’ are national programmes for landscape-scale management.
  • Government agencies:  Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage own and manage 10 projects, and are involved in supporting many of those under charitable and private ownership via the Scottish Rural Development Programme.
  • Private estates: 7 projects were identified on private estates, and in recent years purchase of estates by owners interested in LSER activities has become more frequent.
  • Community projects: strong links to communities feature in 4 projects, with communities coming together to initiate, fund, and manage projects.

What types of habitat are being restored?

Habitats under restoration include native woodland (24 projects), mosaics of woodland, heath, mire and montane (18 projects), peat bog (3 projects) and riparian habitats (2 projects). Most woodland projects now include heathland , mire/bog and montane, managed together as habitat mosaics. The high number of native woodland projects reflects the view that restoration/expansion of native woodland is the most natural ecological state for many sites; that adequate incentives exist to support this; and that it is appealing to range of types of owner.

There is an even split between Scots pine/birch woodland in the Highlands and broadleaved woodland mainly located in the Southern Highlands and Southern Scotland.

Restoration of peat bogs has begun with RSPB’s pioneering work at Forsinard. Projects focused on river catchments are also being developed such as on the River Tweed and River Cree; and Forestry Commission’s project at Loch Katrine was established as a response to the need to safeguard drinking water quality.


Projects are currently dominated by properties in single ownership (23 projects), rather than partnership projects with multiple owners (9 projects). Among the projects involving multiple owners, 6 are led by non-governmental organisations; and 3 by government agencies. There are two “aggregate projects”, where several projects have come together to form a large partnership: The Great Trossachs Forest and, less formally, the Cairngorm forests in Strathspey.