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Aspen Regeneration at Dundreggan

Practical results of our work

Following our purchase of the 4,000 hectare (10,000 acre) Dundreggan Estate in Glen Moriston in 2008, we began practical work there in 2009. One of the first actions was to facilitate the regeneration of aspen trees, through the protection of aspen suckers growing off the roots of mature trees in the woodland. These suckers are highly palatable to red deer, so were heavily overgrazed and unable to grow successfully.

In June 2009, a number of suckers at several aspen stands were protected with individual tree guards made from Netlon. Out of reach of the deer, the suckers grew unhindered throughout the summer of 2009, with spectacular results in some cases. This is because the suckers are growing from the roots of a mature tree, and therefore can draw upon all the nutrients that the tree is able to provide. There is considerable variation in the growth rate of aspen suckers that are protected, and the most vigorous ones appear to be those with the largest leaves. (NB: young aspen leaves are triangular in shape, whereas the leaves on mature trees are the rounded shape typically associated with aspen.)

Steve Morris, aspen sucker and stake

Steve Morris, our Project Manager at Dundreggan, on 12th June 2009 about to protect an aspen sucker with an individual Netlon tree guard.

Guard going down

Putting the Netlon guard on. This provided the first opportunity in many decades (or longer) for young aspens in this area to grow successfully, without being overgrazed.

Looking inside the guard

Safe inside the Netlon guard, this sucker was free to grow over the summer.

The sucker grew

Steve beside the same sucker on 25th August 2009 - it grew over 4 feet ( 1.2 metres) in 10 weeks! After this photo was taken, the Netlon guard had to be extended in height to protect the growing tip from the deer.

More aspen suckers

Another photo from 25th August, showing the growth of various aspen suckers protected by individual guards. The one on the left shows the Netlon extension that had to be added to protect the leader shoot from the deer.

Ants on sucker

Wood ants (Formica lugubris) tending aphids on one of the aspen suckers. The protection we've afforded these suckers for a few months has been enough already for them to provide a habitat for both aphids and wood ants. This shows the effect of tree regeneration in helping to re-weave the web of life, as the growth of young trees provides a food source for various other organisms.

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The Trees for Life Aspen Project

Trees for Life is an award winning conservation charity working to restore the Caledonian Forest
and all its species to a large contiguous area in the Highlands of Scotland.

Trees for Life is a registered charity Scottish charity No. SC021303, and a company limited by guarantee No. 143304 with its registered offices at Forres, Scotland.
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Photos © Alan Watson (unless otherwise indicated) - Banner Credits - Illustrations © Caragh McAuley

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