The Caledonian Forest
- --- Humanity Rising Day 286 - Wednesday July 7, 2021 (GoTo Bottom)
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The Caledonian Forest originally covered much of the Highlands of Scotland, extending to over 1.5 million hectares about 4,000 years ago, and formed a vast primeval wilderness of ancient Scots pines, birches and many other trees. It was part of the boreal forest ecosystem, and was home to large mammals such as the brown bear, Eurasian lynx, European beaver and the wolf, as well as birds including the capercaillie and the Scottsh crossbill, the only bird endemic to Scotland. However, by the late 20th century, thousands of years of human exploitation and deforestation had reduced the forest to a few scattered and isolated remnants totalling 17,000 hectares - just over 1% of its original range. Gone with the old trees were most of the large mammals which had been hunted to national extinction in Scotland, and the remaining forest patches consisted only of old trees, as all the seedlings that germinated in the past 200 years had been eaten by excessive numbers of deer and sheep. With the old trees dying at the end of their lives, the last patches of the forest were in terminal decline and likely to disappear entirely.
Some initial efforts to help the forest regenerate and recover began in the 1950s and early 1960s, with fences erected to keep deer and sheep out of the woodland so that young trees could grow successfully. Trees for Life was founded in 1986 to expand on those efforts, with a specific purpose of helping the Caledonian Forest to return to an area of 2,500 square kilometres, and with the aim of creating enough woodland habitat to support the reintroduction of all the forest's missing wildlife species. Using a combination of techniques including natural regeneration of the trees and targeted planting of native trees to create future seed sources in what was then deforested land, the project's aim was to assist and accelerate the forest's own inherent ability to recover following major disturbance. After more than 30 years of work, the results are visible at numerous sites, as the trees grow in the absence of excessive grazing pressure, the whole forest ecosystem, from fungi and microorganisms to trees, birds and mammals, begins to re-establish itself. Another aim of the project is to be an example of ecological restoration, or rewilding, as forests everywhere are now suffering the same fate as that in Scotland, and restoring them is vital for the health and biodiversity of the planet
- Alan Watson Featherstone is an ecologist, nature photographer and inspirational public speaker. In 1986 he founded the award-winning Scottish conservation charity, Trees for Life, and was its executive director for almost 30 years. During that time it became the leading organisation working to restore the Caledonian Forest in Scotland and his TedX talk about that work has been viewed by over half a million people. Alan has given presentations at events and conferences in more than 20 countries worldwide, and has received a number of awards for his work. He has been vegan for over 40 years and lives in the Findhorn Community in northeast Scotland.
- Jim Garrison, President, Ubiquity University
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