From 1730 until around 1860, Scotland’s Atlantic oakwoods were linked to industry. Iron foundries in places such as Bonawe used charcoal from them to heat their furnaces, while oak bark was shipped further afield, to Glasgow and elsewhere, for tanning leather.
One legacy of this industrial past is that most of these woods are now un-naturally uniform, with many trees of similar height and age. To investigate this and give ideas for greater oakwood variety, the Core Forest Sites project funded trials at Glen Geal in Ardornish Estate.
These trials looked at:
- How thinning affects lower plants (such as lichens)
- What the potential might be for producing marketable oak timber from thinned woodland
- How remaining trees respond to thinning
- And the light requirements of native tree seedlings
Conclusions were that it is possible in Atlantic oakwoods to put into practice the ‘Long-rotation High Forest Model’ developed by Peterken and Worrell (2001). This needs careful selection of individual trees and a careful approach to timber extraction.
Thinning can help a woodland to develop towards favourable conditions, particularly for recruitment of regeneration, lichens, veteran trees and increased volumes of dead wood. But great care is needed not to carry out thinning in the wrong place, too intensively or without regard to biodiversity values.
All of which is covered in Richard Thompson's report "Thinning in Atlantic oakwoods: assessing options at the stand scale"
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