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Dundreggan Estate - The perfect site for forest restoration


Facts and Figures; management plan in brief




 

About Dundreggan Estate

Map

Boundaries of the Dundreggan Estate


  • Dundreggan covers approximately 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres). It is mainly open upland habitat and lies on the north side of Glen Moriston, one of several valleys situated to the west of Loch Ness.
  • There is native woodland on the lower slopes in the south, extending in fragments along its valley systems. There are significant areas of dwarf birch in the northern half of the estate. An area in the east was enclosed in 2002 and planted with native species. An area in the west became a commercial conifer plantation in the 1980s.
  • The estate has been managed as a traditional sporting estate for many years.
  • The name Dundreggan is derived from the Gaelic Dul Dreagain, the Dragon's Haugh, which describes a warrior or hero.

Trees For Life's Vision For 2058

Today, Dundreggan is mostly open, treeless ground. Heavy overgrazing by deer and sheep prevents the healthy growth of woodland and other vegetation communities. Commercial plantations of non-native conifers hem the estate in to the southeast and southwest, and cover over 300 hectares of southwest Dundreggan itself. By 2058, Dundreggan will be a very different place.

Lone birches

These lone birches on the Allt Ruadh show the extent of the former forest on Dundreggan, and the scope for forest restoration work.

  • Dundreggan will be a landscape of diverse natural forest cover. Different forest types will cover about 60% of the estate. Where trees predominate, they will do so as mosaics of denser stands intermingled with open and natural clearings.
  • There will be a greater variety of species, with more oak, hazel, ash, wych elm, bird cherry and holly. Scots pine will be almost as common as birch.
  • There will be many more young trees. There will also be more standing dead wood, where older trees that have died naturally have been left undisturbed, providing a habitat for invertebrates and nest sites for birds.
  • Dundreggan will no longer be isolated. It will form a continuum of native woodland with neighbouring estates. A greater diversity of wildlife will be regularly seen. This will include species that are absent today, including animals like the red squirrel, capercaillie, European beaver, wild boar, osprey, golden eagle, and plants like creeping ladies tresses and twinflower. Notable species such as black grouse and wood ants will still be abundant.
  • Most human infrastructure including fences will have been removed.
  • In the north-east, and in flat, boggy ground elsewhere, mires and natural bog communities will be healthy and vibrant.
  • The commercial conifer plantation in the south-west will be completely replaced with native forest, with scattered open glades and mires.
  • Most ecological processes natural to forest ecosystems will be re-established.
  • Biological inventory work, scientific research and monitoring of restoration efforts will have been an integral part of our work for 50 years. Our projects will have become a model or demonstration for similar projects throughout the UK.
  • Many people will have been inspired through taking part in hundreds of Trees for Life’s Volunteer Conservation Holidays on the estate, educational visits, and through low-impact visitor access and interpretation materials.
    Pine seedling

    This lone, naturally-regenerating pine near the top of the hill, Binnilidh Bheag, illustrates the potential for forest restoration on Dundreggan.

  • Dundreggan Lodge and the nearby cottage will have been extensively retrofitted to be ecologically-sound, with substantial insulation and solar panels.
  • The lodge and cottage will provide accommodation for volunteer groups and visiting staff, and will be used by students and researchers studying biological diversity and ecology. The lodge will include a small educational display.
  • Trees for Life will liaise closely with neighbouring landowners. It is hoped that nearby landowners will be motivated to restore their own land and that others across the Highlands will draw ideas and inspiration from the work at Dundreggan.
  • Forest restoration will continue at a reduced level until at least 2158.

Trees For Life's Long-Term Aims

Trees for Life aims to deliver maximum biodiversity benefits on Dundreggan through long-term, positive management. Over the next 25 years we aim to:

  • Restore native forest to about 60% of the estate, including the full range of native tree species natural to such a landscape. Over the next 10 years, we will convert the existing conifer plantation to native forest. An area will be established where wild boar can be used to prepare the ground for natural regeneration.
  • Restore natural ecosystems or habitats, such as mires, montane scrub and sub-alpine vegetation, particularly in the northeast and the high ground in the central, northern area.
    Alan and enormous juniper

    Scots pines, birch and juniper on Dundreggan - the estate contains some of the best juniper (a UK BAP species) woodland in Scotland, with junipers up to 25 feet tall.

  • Restore and re-establish species. One of the purposes of restoring native forest is to provide an expanded habitat for native species of flora and fauna that would once have been present. These include red squirrel, capercaillie, pearl-bordered fritillary, pine hoverfly, aspen hoverfly, twinflower, one-flowered wintergreen and creeping ladies tresses, all of which still exist in other parts of Scotland, and lost species such as European beaver, wild boar, and perhaps lynx,
  • “Re-wild” Dundreggan, especially through the management of non-native species and the removal of redundant human infrastructure.
  • Establish and maintain a comprehensive, up-to-date inventory of flora and fauna.
  • Institute an on-going programme of research into ecological restoration, to investigate the relationships between species and habitats and the effectiveness of our work. University students, researchers, restoration practitioners and others will be encouraged to carry out projects. Appropriate monitoring programmes including the use of photography will document changes that result from our work.
  • Collaborate with neighbouring landowners and the crofting tenants where they share our goals. We will seek to coordinate our work on Dundreggan with similar projects on their lands, so that habitat restoration takes place over a larger contiguous area.
  • Liase closely with local people and the local community council, offering opportunities for local people to visit and to take part in voluntary activities.
  • Welcome visitors, particularly those with an interest in ecology, habitat restoration and biodiversity. There will be a network of low-key interpretation trails for the public.

Environmental Information

Rainbow over trees

Rainbow over Scots pines and birches in early autumn, along the Red Burn on Dundreggan. Note the open ground, where forest regeneration can take place.


  • A formal nature conservation designation affects Dundreggan - the River Moriston Special Area of Conservation. This is due to the presence of freshwater pearl mussels and also of Atlantic salmon.
  • Several areas of existing native woodland are Ancient Woodland sites.
  • Two priority habitats identified in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (Native Pine Woodlands and Upland Heathland) are present.
  • Several species recorded at Dundreggan are priorities in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. These include one mammal (pine marten); five bird species (common cuckoo, reed bunting, black grouse, red grouse, spotted flycatcher); two reptiles (slow worm, adder); one amphibian (common toad); two butterflies (small pearl-bordered fritillary, small heath); 19 moths; four vascular plants (juniper, field gentian, lesser butterfly orchid, pyramidal bugle); one bryophyte; two fungi; one lichen.
  • The site contains two priority habitats listed in the Inverness and Nairn Local Biodiversity Action Plan (Forest and Woodland, Bog, Moor and Hill). As part of a review of the Local Biodiversity Action Plan, Trees for Life is proposing actions, including the creation of a woodland corridor linking Glen Affric and Glen Moriston.
  • Three species on the site (black grouse, lesser butterfly orchid, intermediate wintergreen) are identified as of particular conservation concern in the Species Action Framework launched by Scottish Natural Heritage in 2007.

Biodiversity - Flora


  • The rich and diverse vegetation communities contain some notable vascular plants. A 2007 survey found 102 vegetation and habitat types, 260 vascular plant species and 129 bryophyte species.
  • Vegetation communities and habitats of local or regional significance include a good extent of blanket bog, montane scrub, wet heathland, juniper scrub, native pinewood fragments and wetland mosaics. These will influence woodland restoration.
  • There are excellent dwarf birch populations and patches of native pine woodland.
  • There is a rich bryophyte community containing at least 18 nationally scarce species. A 2007 survey recorded 87 liverworts and 175 mosses.
  • There is a rich community of fungi, including two UK Biodiversity Action Plan species of national significance. Forest restoration will be designed to support their presence.
  • The lichen community contains several nationally scarce or rare species. A preliminary survey carried out in 2007 recorded 178 species of lichens and 16 species of lichenicolous fungi. This includes four nationally rare and 24 nationally scarce lichens, including one UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species.

Biodiversity - Fauna

Bee

This rare mining bee (Andrena marginata) was presumed extinct in Scotland in 1949, but was discovered in good numbers on Dundreggan by a local volunteer in 2007.


  • The need for a formal survey of mammals on Dundreggan is a high priority.
  • Sightings of the following mammals have been reported: red deer, sika deer, roe deer, pine marten, badger, mole and red fox.
  • The need for a formal survey of birds on the site is a high priority, particularly regarding breeding raptors. One species for which survey work has been done is black grouse, a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species of national significance. A 2007 survey showed a healthy population of over 40 birds.
  • A formal survey of reptiles has been identified as a medium priority.
  • Wood ant colonies are present. Their nest density is high in comparison to other Highland populations.
  • A preliminary survey of aquatic insects in 2007 noted 41 species.
  • Surveys of Lepidoptera in 2006 and 2007 recorded 186 moth species and 14 butterfly species. Dundreggan has a variety of high quality Lepidoptera habitats, particularly in the woodlands, with a range of rare and distinctive species.
  • In 2007, two species of solitary, mining bee were recorded. One, Andrena marginata, is rare and has not been recorded in Scotland since the 1940s, apart from a 2002 sighting. The other, Colletes succinctus, is uncommon and usually confined to the coast; this was its first inland record in Scotland.
  • In 2008, a rare horsefly, the golden horsefly (Atylotus fulvus) was found on Dundreggan – there is only one other record of this species in Scotland since 1923.

Existing Woodland

  • There is an estimated 90 hectares of existing native woodland, mainly concentrated in two areas in the south. Scattered fragments of native woodland lie next to most stream courses. Most of the native woodland is Ancient Woodland.
  • The native woodland is dominated by silver and downy birch, in places in spectacular association with juniper. There is a diverse species range including ash, aspen, cherry (gean and bird), common alder, goat willow, oak, rowan, Scots pine and wych elm. Shrub species include blackthorn, dog rose, hawthorn, hazel, holly, guelder rose, juniper and eared willow. Many of these species are sparsely represented.
  • The majority of the woodland is mature and even aged.
  • There are extensive areas of montane scrub with dwarf birch and prostrate juniper.
  • Predictive modelling, using Scottish Natural Heritage’s Native Woodland Model software, indicates that almost all of Dundreggan could support native woodland.

 

See our first impressions of Dundreggan's potential as a site for forest restoration: Dundreggan - an ideal site for forest restoration.

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.
VAT reg. No. 605079649
Photos © Alan Watson (unless otherwise indicated) - Banner Credits - Illustrations © Caragh McAuley

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