Chopping, twisting, felling: the unruly way to rewild Scotland’s forests

Orderly pine plantations in the Cairngorms are being messed up as part of a plan to let nature thrive

The Scots pine plantations in Abernethy forest are the crème de la crème in forestry terms: tall, straight and dense. These plantations were created in the 1930s, and the wood had a variety of uses, from ships’ masts to trench timbers. Now, this woodland is being retrofitted for wildlife as part of the UK’s largest land restoration project because, although it is striking to wander in such a regimented landscape, nature prefers things to be less orderly.

The gnarled older and bigger trees are better for woodland species, which is why conservationists working on Cairngorms Connect are intentionally making a mess and artificially ageing trees as part of their efforts to restore Scotland’s old Caledonian pine forest to its former, imperfect glory.

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