Scotland proclaims spread of forests - but conservationists aren't happy

A A A

A controversial scheme to replace the lost forests of Scotland was proclaimed an astonishing success yesterday with the news that the country has more trees than at any time in the past 700 years.

A controversial scheme to replace the lost forests of Scotland was proclaimed an astonishing success yesterday with the news that the country has more trees than at any time in the past 700 years.

A survey of Scotland's woodland areas has discovered that 17 per cent of the country is covered with trees. A century ago, because of the effect of the industrial revolution, the coverage was 5 per cent.

The National Inventory of Woodland and Trees for Scotland revealed that 1,347,500 hectares, about 17.2 per cent of Scotland's total land mass, is covered by forest, an increase of almost half since the previous survey in 1980.

"Few countries have tackled the issue of forest loss as vigorously as we have," said Allan Wilson, the Forestry Minister. "This is a wonderful success story of an enormous 'green' investment in the countryside; of increasing landscape diversity; of a huge recreational resource for people; of new and improved habitats for wild plants and animals; and of increasing opportunities for sustainable businesses."

Conservationists said, however, that the huge number of conifers planted – accounting for 69.3 per cent of all of Scotland's 18.58 million trees – had harmed wildlife. In particular, ecologists singled out the Sitka spruce. A native of Scandinavia, it was imported for its fast growth and soft wood, which made it commercially attractive.

George Baxter of the World Wide Fund for Nature Scotland, said: "We should be planting broad-leaf trees such as oak, birch and Caledonian pine, which made up the natural forest cover of Scotland and which would be good for wildlife and the hardwood timber industry. The legacy of the past blanket-planting of conifers has left us with industrial landscapes rather than natural wild ones which support the environment."

Mr Baxter continued: "These conifer plantations acidify the soil, shade out rivers and drive out the natural wildlife to create an almost ecologically dead environment which provides no benefit to the quality of the landscape.

"More than half of the tree cover in this report is Sitka spruce from Scandinavia, which doesn't fit into the natural ecology of Scotland as they create woodlands that are fairly dead in terms of insects, birds and mammal life".

However, the report claims that the area planted with native pine and broad-leaved species is growing and has increased by 68 per cent in 20 years.

Clifton Bain of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland said: "It is crucial that we get the right type of forests in the right places. Many of the current forests were planted without any thought of their impact on wildlife. Forests need to be designed to provide biodiversity for wildlife as well as a public amenity."

At one time, Scotland's forests covered 80 per cent of the land but they were cut down for shelter, fuel and farmland. By the 12th century the proportion of woodland was less than 20 per cent and the rate of decline increased during the industrial revolution. A shortage of timber during the First World War prompted the beginning of a reforestation programme.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Multi Drop Driver

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This food distribution company ...

Recruitment Genius: Yards Person

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Yards person required for fencing and landscap...

Recruitment Genius: Nursery Nurse and Room Leader - Hackney

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a qualified childcare p...

Recruitment Genius: Agency Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent