A palaeoecological investigation of woodlands
During the 1980s and the early 1990s areas of peatland in northern Scotland have been extensively covered with non-native conifer plantations which drastically affected the landscape and present ecosystems. To restore these peatlands, plantations are felled and restoration management is put to practice. Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) aims to develop policies to reinstate the ‘natural’ woodland as at present not much is left.
This study used palaeoecological data (pollen grains, non-pollen palynomorphs (NPP), charcoal) retrieved from peatland areas in northern Scotland (fig. 1) to explore the development of natural woodlands in northern Scotland over the last 10.000 years and answered questions as: What tree species were growing in these locations in the past? What did these woodlands look like? What events (climate/human related) caused woodland to decline and eventually disappear in northern Scotland? Answering these questions provided the basis for advising FLS whether these past natural woodland communities would thrive and sustain themselves if reinstated today or in the future. It is the first study to incorporate this type of data in woodland conservation for northern Scotland and the first time Scottish Forestry and FLS are using palaeoecological studies to be informed about possible new land-use policies, sustainable practices and climate change in relation to woodlands.