Page last updated at 23:27 GMT, Tuesday, 7 October 2008 00:27 UK

Deer cull plan to boost woodland

Red deer stags
The charity hopes not feeding deer in winter will help regeneration

The feeding of deer in winter on a Highlands estate is likely to be phased out and more of the animals culled to help the regeneration of woodland.

Trees for Life want to reconnect forested areas from the River Moriston floodplain up into the hills on Dundreggan Estate in Glen Moriston.

The charity will consult with deer management groups on its plans to control the large mammals.

The estate includes some of the last stands of ancient Caledonian Forest.

Trees for Life, which is based in Findhorn, Forres, took over the 10,000 acres in a 1.6m deal.

Executive director Alan Featherstone said a five-year plan had been drawn up for the estate, but the programme was still in the early days of implementation.

RISE AND FALL OF THE CALEDONIAN FOREST
Tree rings
1. 10,000-12,000 years ago and the end of the Ice Age sees the beginnings of vegetation growth and trees in Scotland.
2. 4,000 years ago sees tree growth at its maximum extent during a period of a favourable climate, which later gave way to colder weather
3. The 8th Century and Vikings begin raids on Britain. Some raids led to fields and forests being burned
4. Forests were being destroyed in the Middle Ages, but this time in an effort to eradicate wolves
5. The 18th Century saw the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution and trees being felled to build ships and for the construction of sewers in London
6. The defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden and later the Highland Clearances bring about major changes to land ownership and use, including increased grazing of sheep and deer
7. The present day and efforts are under way to regenerate and expand the surviving small percentage of native forest
The tree rings are for illustration purposes only

Controlling sheep and deer grazing are among the key objectives.

Mr Featherstone said: "Obviously there is a cull of deer at the moment and we are planning to increase that a bit.

"The previous owner was feeding the deer in winter in woodland and we would look at, over time, phasing that out."

Fences would be used to protect seedlings in areas where new planting was required.

The charity wants to revive what is known as riparian forest - trees next to water - to tackle erosion around the River Moriston but also to provide leaf litter which creates food and habitat for invertebrates.

Mr Featherstone said an aim was to achieve a natural regeneration.

However, as many as 500,000 native trees may also be planted.

On Dundreggan grow birch, juniper, pine, oak, aspen, hazel and also bird cherry and wych elm which have survived selective logging for their valued woods in the past.

The estate also has some of the country's best examples of dwarf birch.

Other wildlife includes as many as 40 black grouse, rare wood ants, moths and lichen and tooth fungi which is associated with native pine woods.

If a planned government-backed trial of reintroducing beaver to a site in Argyll is successful, Mr Featherstone hopes Dundreggan would be considered as somewhere to release the mammals in the future.

Meanwhile, the executive director hoped other countries would see the destruction of the Caledonian Forest as a warning against deforestation but also recognise efforts to reverse its decline.

Viking raiders, the demands of the Industrial Revolution and the Highland Clearances impacted on woodland, he said.

But from the early pioneers in forestry of the 1960s and 70s, he said organisations like his and the Forestry Commission, Woodland Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage and RSPB were working to create a new age of growth.

"One per cent of the Caledonian Forest was left 20 years ago," he added.

"Then we were in an age of what I call geriatric forests, stands of old trees that were not being replaced.

"It left a massive generation gap."


SEE ALSO
New forest to follow 1.6m deal
24 Aug 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Debates on return of wild animals
11 Jun 08 |  Highlands and Islands

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