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Dan and aspen

Dan monitoring the growth of an aspen tree that we planted inside a stock-fenced exclosure at Grudie Oakwood. Photo by Mick Drury.

 

Aspen report.jpg

The report from the 2008 Aspen Conference

 

Dan and Chris

Dan and local volunteer Chris Williams planting aspens inside a stock-fenced exclosure in Gleann na Ciche in June. Photo by Mick Drury.

Aspen Project Update



November 2009


Our Aspen Project is now 18 years old, and going from strength to strength. We got off to a good start in early spring with the usual round of collecting root cuttings for propagation. We collected a record-breaking total of over 300 cuttings (around 30 cm each), sometimes scrabbling around in snow with hands so frozen it was an effort to close the secateurs! Each root cutting can produce around 7 trees, so Jill and Malcolm have been very busy processing these at our tree nursery.

This spring the proceedings of last October’s Aspen Conference were published, and included a talk I gave on Aspen and Beavers. Since beavers are fond of aspen as a food plant, some conservationists are concerned that beaver reintroduction could threaten some of the specialist species that depend on aspen (eg certain lichens). In my presentation, I highlighted the different strategies that can be used to avoid such conflicts. A key solution is to make sure that we have a huge increase in the amount of aspen in Scotland so that there is enough for a wide range of wildlife, including beavers. After all, these species have been co-existing quite happily for thousands of years! The report from the conference is available on our website here.

On a Conservation Holiday this May, we planted 1,305 aspens – the largest single aspen planting in TFL’s history! This is part of a partnership project with Forestry Commission Scotland, who erected a fence on their land adjacent to Dundreggan and the River Moriston. This autumn (and hopefully by the time you read this!) we plan to plant more than 2,000 aspen on Dundreggan, right next to the spring planting site, and the idea is that we’ll create a very large aspen stand along the river.

We have also planted smaller areas of aspen, including some at Plodda Lodge and in Gleann na Ciche, a beautiful, remote area towards the western end of Glen Affric. In June, a few of us were fortunate to camp out at that site, so we could get the most out of our time there, planting and fencing aspen.

I have been spending time inspecting the work that we’ve done in the past, and it is coming on well overall. Monitoring the trees always bring surprises. In some cases trees that have been protected for years grow frustratingly slowly, while others that have been planted recently have shot up. Over time I’m getting a clearer picture of the best kind of conditions to look out for when planting aspen. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of those planted on sunnier slopes with richer soils seem to be doing particularly well.

Possibly my favourite part of the aspen work is looking for new stands. We have a database of over 384 different aspen stands that have now been surveyed throughout our Target Area. A stand can consist of a single tree, or a large group made up of hundreds of aspen, but must be at least 100 metres away from the next nearest aspen to count as a separate stand. Aspen hunting can be great fun as it offers the chance to explore all kinds of nooks and crannies (no, I don’t mean when checking for ticks!), such as gullies, and fantastic pockets of ancient woodland that I might not have visited otherwise.

On the more technical side, Mark Richards has helped us to put our aspen database onto our GIS computer mapping system, which is an extremely valuable tool in planning our future work.

So, what are the next steps? The Dundreggan planting is the current big project, but we also recently met up with the manager of the Scatwell Estate who is keen for us to further expand on the aspen planting we did there last year. Scatwell has the largest area of aspen woodland north of the Great Glen, with several important specialist insects. It’s crucial to get a new generation of trees underway to provide the necessary dead wood habitat for them in the future. We have an agreement to erect several stock fences there early next year. These will protect young suckers and trees that will be planted, helping to secure the long-term survival of this important habitat.

I’d like to thank the many people who gave their time to help with this project (there isn’t space to name them all!), especially Chris Williams, Derek Peacock and Mark Richards.

Dan Puplett


The Trees for Life Aspen Project


Pages about Aspen on this site

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.

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