Return of natural bonsai

Published: Sunday 30 November 1997

  Stunted trees in Scotland ar a report recently published by the Scottish Natural Heritage ( snh) , a government conservation organisation, natural bonsai in Scotland may be lost forever. However, conservationists are campaigning to bring back the stunted trees that once used to cloak the Scottish Highlands. This montane scrub, which grows between forested foothills and heather-clad summits, is a rich habitat that has been eaten away by deer and sheep.

Chris Sydes, a botanist with the snh in Edinburgh, argues that the only way to restore montane scrub is to radically alter the way landowners manage Highland estates. "Ideally, sheep and deer grazing would have to stop," he says. Scrub would then slowly recolonise the upper slopes. It could also provide a habitat for endangered birds like the black grouse, Tetrao tetrix .

The snh has joined with the Forestry Commission, the National Trust for Scotland and the Scottish Agricultural College in Edinburgh to form an action group dedicated to bring back the Highlands. Sydes says that grants to compensate farmers and landowners will be needed to persuade them to reduce grazing.

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