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Coire Ghaidheil

Practical Results of our Work

Coire Ghaidheil is a 9.5 hectare exclosure which was erected in November 1994 on the National Trust for Scotland's West Affric Estate, as the first of a series of 10 exclosures for forest restoration on the 4,000 hectare (10,000 acre) property. The fenced area encompasses a section of the Allt Coire Ghaidheil stream at the eastern-most end of West Affric, and it protects the largest concentration of trees remaining on the virtually-treeless estate.

This area was fenced for natural regeneration exclusively, and the tree species occurring there are mainly downy birch (Betula pubescens) and rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), with some eared willow (Salix aurita) as well. In August 1999, almost 5 years after the fence was put up, Kay Whitfield, one of our Conservation Holiday focalisers, discovered a Scots pine seedling (Pinus sylvestris) growing inside the exclosure, and some tea-leaved willows (Salix phylicifolia) have also subsequently been found there.

Coire Ghaidheil is a key site in our strategy to return native forest to suitable parts of the upper Affric River watershed. Situated on the north side of the glen, and surrounded by open, tree-less slopes, the good natural regeneration now occurring there augurs well for the recovery of the forest to this part of the glen.

Trees for Life Field Officer Adam Powell beside an eared willow inside the Coire Ghaidheil exclosure in May 1996, showing the growth which had taken place in the first two and half years since the fence was put up.
Alan Watson Featherstone beside the same eared willow in May 2004, almost 10 years after the area was protected from overgrazing by red deer.
Larger bush, 2008 Alan beside the same tree in early July 2008, showing the results of another 4 years of growth.
Caterpillar of the northern eggar moth (Lasiocampa quercus callunae) feeding on this eared willow bush in May 2004. The presence of this caterpillar indicates that the regeneration of young trees is sufficiently advanced to support insect populations, thereby demonstrating the 'reweaving of the web of life' which results from the recovery of the vegetation in the absence of overgrazing.
Another northern eggar moth caterpillar on a stem of the same eared willow in May 2004.
Tea-leaved willow in flower in the Coire Ghaidheil exclosure in May 2004.
Willow seeds Ripening seeds on the same tea-leaved willow in early July 2008.

Alan Watson Featherstone

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Published: 5 October 2004
Last updated: 25 August 2010

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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