9 Jun 2022

Cairngorms set for woodland biodiversity boost

A woodland conservation project in the Cairngorms will use natural regeneration to boost biodiversity, whilst expanding and revitalising the area’s native woodlands.

Around 1,425 hectares of new native woodland, consisting of Caledonian Scots Pine, Birch, Rowan, Aspen Willows and Alder, will be regenerated naturally over the next five years.

Iconic Scottish species such black grouse, capercaillie, red squirrels and wood ants will also benefit from the native woodland expansion.  

The landscape scale woodland expansion will take place in Glenfeshie, Glen Tromie and Gaick estates, right in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park.  

The project is being managed on land owned by Scottish conservation and tourism business Wildland Limited. It builds on the 2,300 hectares of  native woodland that the organisation has already achieved over the last 20 years.

Environment Minister Màiri McAllan said:

“This project is a huge environmental boost for the Cairngorms. It’s also a good example of combining public and private investment together to enhance biodiversity, whilst giving the local economy a boost too.

“Native woodlands and natural regeneration are an important part of expanding Scotland’s woodlands and this project will be a welcome addition to our national woodland creation targets.

“Private sector investment in our natural capital is vital if we are to reach Net Zero. It is also important that this investment delivers for communities, the environment and the economy, as we have set out in our new Interim Principles for Responsible Investment in Natural Capital.”

A further 2,200 hectares of native woodland is anticipated to establish on the estates over a 10 year period, without the use of any deer fencing. 

The first five years of woodland regeneration on the project is expected to sequester around 159,000 tonnes of harmful CO2 over the next 100 years. This would be the equivalent of soaking up the emissions of 195 UK households every year for the next 100 years.

Wildland’s Director of Conservation, Thomas MacDonell, says his team has worked hard to allow the woodlands to regenerate naturally and this latest phase is a continuation of the estate’s long term vision for landscape scale conservation. 

Mr MacDonell said:

“Our Wildland team continues to work hard to build further upon and increase the multiple benefits that woodland expansion has already delivered.

“We are supportive of the Scottish Government’s new principles on natural capital investment and our work is very much aligned to this approach.

“Wildland has invested heavily over the past two decades in its work in the Cairngorms and continues to employ stalkers to manage the deer on the estates. This has enabled us to achieve 2,300ha of new native woodland through natural regeneration, contributing to climate change targets.

“Our 2000 & 2020 restoration work has been assessed for its climate mitigation potential and a calculation of 301,776 tonnes of CO2 has been attributed to it which is a healthy contribution to tackling climate change.

“With Scottish Forestry support we are expanding our regeneration activity, adding to our own significant investment to accelerate the benefits to society achieved in earlier phases.”

Scottish Forestry has awarded £1.3 million Forestry Grants Scheme funding to the project.  Wildland Ltd has invested heavily in the natural regeneration of native woodlands in the Cairngorms, in excess of £5 million to date.

The estates involved in the project enjoy frequent visits and public access.

Wildland Limited is keen to support quality experiences by the general public, with the possibility of overnight stays at the recently refurbished Ruigh Aiteachain bothy, whilst also developing tourism business with accommodation provided in renovated buildings throughout the estates.

Part of the estates’ wider vision is to share their conservation work with as many visitors as possible.