Abernethy Forest

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regeneration in the northern forest

Abernethy Forest is a remnant of the Caledonian Forest in Strathspey, in the Highland council area of Scotland. It is an RSPB reserve, close to Loch Garten Osprey Centre, which is also owned by the RSPB. There is approximately 4,000 hectares of forest within the reserve, and just under half of this is native caledonian pine forest. Abernethy Forest is the largest remaining remnant of the Ancient Caledonian Forest in Scotland.

The forest is home to Scottish Crossbill, Red Squirrel, Wild Cat, Red Deer, Black Grouse, Crested Tit, Osprey and there is also a Capercaillie lek.

Abernethy Forest is in the Cairngorms National Park. Nearby villages include Nethy Bridge to the north, Boat of Garten to the west, and Aviemore to the south-west.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) Designated Areas[edit]

Abernethy Forest includes (in part or in whole) or bounded by several Scottish Natural Heritage designated areas, including the : Abernethy NNR,[1] Abernethy Forest SSSI,[2] Abernethy Forest SPA, Cairngorms SSSI, Cairngorms NNR, Cairngorms SAC, Cairngorms SPA, Cairngorms National Park, Cairngorms Massif SPA, Eastern Cairngorms SSI, Northern Corries, Cairngorms SSSI.

A History of Intervention[edit]

The RSPB have a history of heavy-handed intervention on their reserve within the Abernethy Forest. On the 19th of October, 2006, the RSPB began using explosives to blast off the crowns of nine Caledonian Pine trees, aged between 100 and 200-years-old.[3] Referring to this use of explosives, Desmond Dugan, RSPB Site Manager at the Forest Lodge said:[4]

"Explosives may seem extreme but the effect will be no less catastrophic than a wind snapped, lightning struck or avalanched tree"

While explaining the RSPB's motive for using explosives in the forest, James Reynolds, RSPB Head of Media and Communications said:[5]

"We've been simply felling trees and trying to create dead wood habitats in that way before, but we don't think it allowed the process to get going quickly enough"

On August 24, 2011 the RSPB received consent from the Forestry Commission to expand native woodland through natural regeneration and planting. This consent specifically included :

"Enrichment planting of native broadleaves over 29.5 ha, scattered low density planting over a wider 107.4 ha, and pioneer low density planting to establish a full pinewood mix over 216 ha beyond the current forest edge"

Neither the RSPB's Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) document nor the Forestry Commission's Consent document explain what is meant by 'enrichment' or 'pioneer' planting although both the 'Enrichment' Plantation[6] and 'Pioneer' Plantation have been designated.

Since they received consent from the Forestry Commission, the RSPB began planting 60,000 aspen, birch, juniper and willow trees within the approximately 590 hectares of their 'Enrichment' Plantation.

regeneration in the southern forest

However, the RSPB planting plans were not widely known about until July 2013. In that year Ramblers Scotland asked Basil Dunlop, Richard Balharry, and Dr Adam Watson for their views. The resulting 'statement of concern' was reported in the Sunday Herald of the 28th of July 2013 in an article[7] by the paper's Environment Editor Rob Edwards. Quotes attributed to the three experts on native pinewood conservation include :

"[that planting would be] a conspicuous departure from previously agreed policies in the Cairngorms and would damage the integrity of the Old Caledonian pinewoods owned by the RSPB" and : "[that planting] would forever destroy the naturalness of the site, break the chain, and devalue scientific study"

Stuart Housden of RSPB Scotland responded to the report. Quotes attributed to him include :

"the report is wildly inaccurate" and : "[release of the report] is extremely bad manners"

In a subsequent statement[8] David Thomson and Dave Morris of Ramblers Scotland wrote :

"we anticipate there will be considerable opposition to the RSPB proposals as these become more widely known"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Abernethy NNR, SNH designated area on Bing Maps
  2. ^ Abernethy Forest SSSI, SNH designated area on Bing Maps
  3. ^ Trees blown up to aid new life, Gavin Musgrove, Strathspey & Badenoch Herald
  4. ^ Tree explosions to 'aid wildlife', BBC News
  5. ^ Dynamite is new weapon in battle to save forest, Scotsman
  6. ^ RSPB 'Enrichment' Plantation, RSPB 'Enrichment' Plantation on Bing Maps
  7. ^ RSPB's plans to expand forest come under fire, Rob Edwards, Sunday Herald
  8. ^ RSPB plans for Abernethy Forest, David Thomson and Dave Morris, Ramblers Scotland

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 57°15′N 3°38′W / 57.250°N 3.633°W / 57.250; -3.633