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Dan and aspen

Dan beside one of the aspens planted in a stock-fenced exclosure on the north shore of Loch Beinn a' Mheadhoin in Glen Affric, in early May.

 

Mick and aspens

Mick Drury appreciating the regeneration of young aspens inside an exclosure on the Scatwell Estate.
Photo by Dan Puplett.

Aspen Project Update



August 2008


The Aspen Project has been buzzing with activity this year, in preparation for our plans for expansion. One icy day in January, Mick, Pirouel and I went to the Scatwell Estate with local volunteers Chris and Shona Scatchard to erect some protective stock fences, which were later planted with aspen. The Scatwell site has the largest area of aspen north of the Great Glen, and we hope to expand it further still to provide habitat for the range of species that need large, diversely structured stands of aspen. Aspen-dependent species currently found at the site include a cranefly (Gnophomyia viridipennis), the larvae of which tend to occur on poplar species, but usually are found much further south.

This spring we collected around 200 root cuttings, including some from Strathconon, Glen Affric and Glen Moriston, in preparation for our large aspen planting schemes over the next few years. We have a three year plan in place for the Aspen Project, which includes creating three new large stands of aspen, doubling the production of aspen in our nursery, and increasing the extent of our survey and monitoring work.

Leading up to the Dundreggan purchase, there has been a lot of work carried out in Glen Moriston, and at Dundreggan in particular. We have now identified a total of 18 stands of aspen on the Estate, and I suspect there are a few more to be found! We had some very welcome assistance from Work Week volunteers in planting several hundred aspen saplings into holding beds at Dundreggan. These trees are being kept on in preparation for a large riparian (riverside) planting that is planned for the part of the Estate by the River Moriston.

We have also been increasing our records of different organisms associated with this tree. We have found the aspen bracket fungus (Phellinus tremulae) at Dundreggan and several other parts of our Target Area. Some very interesting galls have also been recorded, including one that appears as a distinctive lump on the leaf and is caused by a midge (Lasioptera populnea).

Galls

Galls induced by a midge (Lasioptera populnea) on the underside of an aspen leaf on Dundreggan.

Midge larva

The larva of the midge, seen here after it left the gall, is bright orange and about 2 mm long.

The Highland Aspen Group, of which TFL is a member, is organising a conference to take place this October. This follow-up to the first Aspen Seminar, which was held in 2001, will examine how things have moved on since then, and what the next steps in aspen conservation will be. The conference will look at many issues including the rich biodiversity associated with this tree as well as the latest ideas in aspen management.

Trees for Life’s presentation will explore the relationship between aspen and beavers, which may return to our rivers in the not-too-distant future. Beavers are particularly fond of, though not dependent on, aspen. By increasing the overall amount of aspen, as we have been doing in a number of areas, we believe that we can increase habitat for aspen-dependent organisms, and ensure the aspen stands are robust enough to thrive in the presence of beavers. It is possible that beavers may help aspen and its associated wildlife by creating a diverse age structure and providing dead wood. Please visit our website, where a flyer about the conference can be downloaded, or call the office to find out more about this event.

In May, Alan and I went into Glen Affric with Edward Milner, who has been kindly creating some web videos for us. One of these focuses on our aspen project, and you can view the footage here on our website. It was heartening to visit a particular pair of fences beside Loch Beinn a Mheadhoin, where some of the aspens planted in 2002 have reached an impressive height.

In June I checked out some fences and trees that were planted beside the River Moriston by Work Week volunteers in 2006. These are doing amazingly well, and the only aspens I have seen sending up suckers (ramets) after two and a half years!

Dan Puplett


The Trees for Life Aspen Project

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