From video creators SCOTLAND: The Big Picture
Ecological processes are complex. What grows where is reflected by myriad factors including soil, altitude, rainfall, wind, grazing pressure and the availability of a seed source. We cannot say with absolute certainty then that a diverse oceanic boreal forest would automatically emerge from an abandoned grouse moor. We can however, take clues from Scotland’s past and the process of vegetation succession in other parts of the country as well as places like Norway, where similar geological and meteorological conditions prevail.
When Scotland emerged from the last ice age, a balanced and intricate ecosystem slowly established itself. In this animation we mirror that process by removing the management practices associated with driven grouse shooting. In the absence of rotational heather burning, hill road construction and predator control, the moorland starts to ‘green’ as heather grows and other high-altitude shrubs like blaeberry are allowed to flourish. Assuming a local seed source, this tundra-like vegetation would be colonised by pioneering trees such as birch, rowan, and aspen and alongside watercourses, willow and alder. These grow-fast-die young trees would gradually be replaced by longer-lived species such as Scots pine and oak.
As this multi-species forest matures, the older trees die and fall, creating deadwood - valuable feeding and breeding habitat for a range of insects and birds. The diverse forest floor creates a niche for rodents - food for raptors and owls. Lightning, fire and wind creates open glades where butterflies forage and deer graze. The resultant tapestry of habitats sustains a more dynamic ecosystem providing opportunities for a much broader range of species than an intensively managed grouse moor.
It’s not only wildlife that prospers however. Forests, which are much more than just trees, clean the air, enrich the soil, absorb carbon and slow the flow of water. They provide food, shelter, shade and building materials. They are places to play and relax. The natural alternative to a driven grouse moor provides a diversity and abundance of life. It is a place where nature and people can thrive together.
SCOTLAND: The Big Picture is a non-profit Social Enterprise founded by a group of professional communicators, with an advisory panel which includes ecologists, geologists and historians. Their mission is to inspire the restoration of healthy ecosystems across Scotland where wildlife and people prosper.