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Our team recently recreated a historic photo of the Ryvoan Pass to document the impact of deer management over the Green Lochan.

The Ryvoan Pass in the Cairngorms National Park is a trail that takes visitors from Glenmore Forest to Abernethy Forest past the Green Lochan, famous for its emerald, green waters.

George Dey, the forester in the area, took this picture in 1984. His collection of forestry images range from the 50s to the 2000s and are all stored at the University of Aberdeen.

a show over a treed hillside from 1984 and the lochan in the background

Ryvoan Pass, Cairngorms National Park 1984

The caption on the photo states, “lovely high view of the Green Loch at Glenmore Forest. George Dey has made the remark – no regeneration and it would be interesting to see a present-day view from the same place.”

Following up on George’s idea, our ecology intern Rossina Parvanova retook George’s image of the pass to shows how the woodland has expanded in the past 40 years.  

Modern picture of the same hillside with more trees

Ryvoan Pass, Cairngorms National Park 2023

Tom Cameron, our North Region Area Wildlife Manager, said, “the photo shows the Green Lochan and Glenmore, which has some of the oldest woodland we have in the UK. It’s truly a very special place.

Woodland recovery in the absence of deer

 “In the 1984 photo, you can see the trees were sparse with limited regeneration and vegetation growth. That was down to deer trampling and grazing on vegetation and new shoots.”

The regeneration has been helped by work to restore the Caledonian Pine woodland: since the early 90s efforts have been made to remove non-native conifers and to increase deer management. This reduced browsing pressure and allowed natural regeneration of native pine wood species.

a tree sapling that has been eaten by a deer

An example of deer browsing on a small sapling

Deer can damage forests in a variety of ways: stripping trees of bark makes the trees more prone to disease; they eat young trees and prevent them from growing; and trampling stops vegetation growth, harms the soil and ruins other forest habitats.

These ungulates have no natural predators in Scotland, so we carry out sustainable deer management to keep populations to a level that doesn’t impact negatively on their habitat, which in turn halts the loss of biodiversity and achieves our land management objectives.

Comparing the new Ryvoan Pass photo’s to the old ones shows how sustained, considered deer management can help restore forests.

Naturally-restored woodland

Tom said, “Ryvoan Pass has regenerated itself incredibly well in the absence of deer.

“You can see the Caledonian pine has expanded back up the hillside, accompanied by the associated native broadleaf species such as willow, rowan and birch.

“We haven’t added or planted anything here - nature did this all by herself once we increased deer management efforts.”

We work with the site’s adjoining neighbours, used culls to reduce the deer population and avoided using deer fencing.

Tom said, “deer fencing has its place, but it’s visually intrusive, can restrict access and can have an impact on other wildlife – for example, capercaillie, which are an endangered species, can fly into it.

Fencing can also displace deer from one area of land or another and create or magnify issues relating to high deer population levels. Deer culls are a necessary part of managing Scotland’s forests and keeping their ecological balance in check.

“These photos show how successful that approach can be - we have a native woodland that is now thriving and expanding.”

Visitors who want to walk the Old Ryvoan trail and see the recovery for themselves can start at Glenmore visitor centre.