Forestry and Land Scotland forging ahead post-Arwen
While many outdoor businesses are winding down for winter, Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) is gearing up for its busiest time of year, as a huge tree planting effort gets underway.
This year’s routine planting season – over the winter months to March - comes at the same time as efforts to tackle the widespread damage caused by Storm Arwen.
FLS estimates that up to 900 hectares- the equivalent of 738 football pitches- in forests that it manages, were damaged across the East Coast, Perthshire, Aberdeenshire and south Scotland in November 2021.
This is the equivalent of nearly a third of the annual FLS tree felling programme in a single night.
Many of these were mature trees, ready for harvesting, but the fact that they have been blown over makes the work of extracting them more difficult.
Over the next 12 months, FLS aims to plant approximately 25 million new tree seedlings to create new woodlands and restock existing forests where older trees have been felled, as well as repairing storm damaged woodlands.
Tree species include native species such as birch, oak, aspen, rowan and commercial conifers such as Scots pine and Sitka spruce; around half are grown in FLS’s dedicated tree nursery near Elgin.
All the new forestry, especially the productive forestry that’s grown for much-needed timber, will help contribute to meeting Scotland’s climate change targets by locking up carbon.
Increasing the proportion of productive forestry is also vital to reduce the UK’s dependence on timber imports (currently around 80% of the timber we use is imported) so that we can supply more of what we need, from our own sustainably managed forests.
Doug Knox, FLS Head of Technical Services Group, said:
“The damage caused by Storm Arwen to publicly managed forests that FLS manages is only half the story, and privately owned forests have been just as badly affected.
“The scale of the damage is making significant demands on the forestry sector. In one night the equivalent of nearly one third of our annual tree felling program blew over as a result of Storm Arwen.
“We are now having to make substantial re-adjustments in work programmes to deal with the clear-up. We are working closely with others in the wider forestry industry to build momentum in the clear-up operation.
“Meanwhile, our large scale tree planting programmes continue so that we can create new conifer and broadleaved forests that will act as the carbon sinks of the future and help to build Scotland’s timber industry.
“Furthermore as managers of around 8% of Scotland’s land, our work supports and sustains communities in rural Scotland and conserves and enhances our natural environment for future generations.”
FLS is at the forefront of transformational climate change adaptation measures that will be required for the ‘new normal’ of a changed climate.
Examples include implementing natural flood management measures in high-risk water catchments, felling and planting work to stabilise steep slopes above key transport routes such as the A82 works and developing habitats in which species threatened by climate change, can thrive.
FLS is also restructuring Scotland’s forests, increasing the species mix both to benefit conservation work and biodiversity by creating a ‘mosaic’ of different habitats instead of the mono-culture forestry of 40 years ago.
Looking ahead, this will likely mean the use of alternative conifer species, such as Norway spruce, Western Red Cedar, Sequoia, Coast redwood and Macedonian pine, to provide greater diversity and build resilience to wildfires, pests and diseases.
In 2022 FLS, which manages almost 30 per cent of Scotland’s woodland, will:
- Plant 25 million trees: a mix of conifers (Lodgepole pine, Scots pine, Sitka and Norway spruce) and broadleaf (Oak, Birch, Rowan, Alder, Aspen, Beech)
- Plan and plant new woodlands and forests: over the last five years, FLS has planted approximately 3,282 ha of new forest, approximately 70% broadleaf, 30% conifer.
- Protect around 150m trees from the negative impact of unsustainably high deer populations in Scotland – young trees are very vulnerable to browsing damage from deer for about 6-7 years from planting.
- Harvest around nine million trees generating £410m in gross value added for the Scottish economy. Timber is mostly used in practical and in-demand products such as fencing, timber frames for housing, wooden pallets, packaging, paper and biomass fuel.
Notes to editors
Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) manages forests and land owned by Scottish Ministers in a way that supports and enables economically sustainable forestry; conserves and enhances the environment; delivers benefits for people and nature; and supports Scottish Ministers in their stewardship of Scotland's national forests and land.