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Forestry and Land Scotland has planted 5,000 native trees along the banks of the River South Esk as part of a major project to improve biodiversity and the long-term catchment resilience on the River.

The project, which also covered River South Esk catchment in Glen Doll Forest, Angus, was carried out with the River South Esk Catchment Partnership, and funded through the NatureScot Biodiversity Challenge Fund.

The native tree species planted reflect the mix in the natural woodland communities identified through the existing ground vegetation communities and which would therefore be most likely to flourish along the watercourses.

FLS Environment Forester, Gareth Ventress, said;

“This was a great project to work on.

“We’ve chosen and planted species that really fit the various habitats in the riparian zone and by enriching what was already there we’ve really maximised the opportunities for biodiversity to flourish.”

There are two main riparian woodland communities along Glen Doll’s watercourses - fairly nutrient rich, moist, alder woodland and nutrient-poor, acidic, wet birch wood – and both are also closely associated with very different vegetation communities of grasses, plants and mosses.

As well as creating the new native riparian woodlands, flower-rich habitats with plants such as Mountain Pansy, Lady’s Bedstraw, Mountain sorrel and Yellow Mountain Saxifrage, and patches of classic bog communities with Sphagnum mosses, Sundews and Butterwort where protected and enhanced by the planting.

With the help of his colleague Stewardship Forester, Craig French, Gareth picked the most suitable tree species - from suitable Scottish seed sources - for each site, including rare and less common species that will have a great impact on local biodiversity .

They then planted out – and protected with tree guards and small fencing enclosures - a mix of alder (2,000), birch (2,000), aspen (500), bird cherry (250), and hazel (250).

Gareth added;

“As well as an initial quick increase in biodiversity the trees will, over time, provide a seed source for future natural regeneration along the catchment. The maturing trees will create varying degrees of shade and light, help to reduce water temperatures and - through the native leaf litter - increase the levels of suitable nutrients for aquatic invertebrates, which will only serve to enrich biodiversity even further.”

“It’s not difficult to imagine that an increase in aquatic invertebrates and terrestrial invertebrates falling from the trees into the water will support more robust Salmonid populations and in turn otter populations along the catchment.”

The site will be monitored over the next 10 years to ensure that the new trees thrive and that conifer regeneration, which would threaten to over-shade them, is not allowed to take hold. The tree guards and enclosures will be removed once the trees are large enough to survive the deer browsing over winter when the red deer herds move down into the forest to feed and shelter from the snow.

FLS will continue to build on the work of this project and earlier riparian planting by adding more native trees along the catchment as the forest is restructured and with the eventual inclusion of less common trees and shrubs like dark-leaved willow and juniper.


Notes to editors

  1. 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.

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  3. Media enquiries to Paul Munro, Media Manager, Forestry and Land Scotland Media Office 0131 370 5059 or