An ecosystem restoration project on a massive scale in the Northwest Highlands may help slow the spread of ash dieback, the tree disease which threatens to do enormous damage to native woodlands.
The Coigach-Assynt Living Landscape project is an innovative partnership of local landowners, led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust. The project has established a new tree nursery at Little Assynt, 5 miles east of Lochinver in Sutherland. Here, Tree Nursery Manager Nick Clooney has been recruited to grow trees from seed collected in locations throughout the Coigach and Assynt area, avoiding the need to bring in planting stock and so avoiding the risk of importing disease. Growing planting stock locally also cuts down on energy requirements, reduces the carbon footprint and creates local jobs.
Project Manager Viv Halcrow said:
“Recent research from Sweden has shown that some strains of ash can resist dieback disease, so it is important that the genetic diversity of our ash populations is maintained. The disease is likely to have a devastating effect on woodlands across the UK. It is vital we save our native ash trees and ash woodlands as the species is very important in biodiversity terms, supporting many other species, as well as being a beautiful mature tree.
“The Little Assynt tree nursery is also growing native birch, rowan, hazel, oak, wych elm, cherry, holly, juniper, blackthorn and dog rose. This wide range of native trees and shrubs will go towards sympathetically reforesting parts of this vast area, helping us to provide a diverse range of connected and resilient habitats in which wildlife can thrive.”
The project area covers over 60,000 hectares of land, of which roughly half is owned and managed by the seven current partners, north of Ullapool on the west coast of Scotland. More partners are warmly encouraged to join the Coigach-Assynt Living Landscape partnership.
The project has recently recruited Romany Garnett as Outreach Officer; she will involve the local community in the project and the work of the tree nursery, promoting lifelong learning, health and well-being, and an appreciation and understanding of the spectacular local environment.
The Coigach-Assynt Living Landscape blog has also been launched, telling the world the latest about this groundbreaking project. Click here to visit the blog.
The Coigach-Assynt Living Landscape project is working towards landscape-scale conservation management through habitat restoration, while striving to secure local jobs and underpin the thriving local culture and arts.