Volunteers isolate in Scottish Highlands to save more than 100,000 trees

The team of six from conservation charity Trees for Life, have been voluntarily isolating themselves near Loch Ness since March.

Staying at the charity’s flagship Dundreggan rewilding estate in Glenmoriston, near Loch Ness, they are working together to save more than 100,000 native young trees from being lost due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Trees including Scots pine, rowan, juniper, hazel, holly and oak, as well as rare mountain species such as dwarf birch and woolly willow were all grown carefully from seed in Dundreggan’s specialised nursery, and were due for planting out on the hills this spring.

Once the coronavirus crisis hit, questions were asked about what would happen to those due for planting on the hills.

However, once lockdown was implemented, six volunteers decided to isolate in the Highlands area working to make sure those trees left the nursery were still planted.

Doug Gilbert, Trees for Life’s Dundreggan Manager said: “The coronavirus crisis forced the postponement of this spring’s tree planting meaning tens of thousands of young trees have not left our nursery as planned.

“But nature isn’t in lockdown. All these precious trees have been coming into leaf, and we need to take care of them – especially in the dry weather we’ve been having. Without regular watering, they would all die. We also needed to start sowing new seed now, to ensure a supply of trees for future planting seasons.”

Over 60,000 trees are grown per year at the nursery by dozens of volunteers using seed collected across the estate. These trees are then planted out at Dundreggan and other Highland sites to restore Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Forest and its unique wildlife.

Doug, with colleagues Abbey Goff, Emma Beckinsale, Patrick Fenner, and trainees Catriona Bullivant and Louise Cameron, opted to voluntarily isolate themselves at Dundreggan rather than at their homes when the national lockdown was announced.

The group are only leaving Dundreggan for essential reasons, such as collecting prescriptions, while food is arriving at the rewilding estate via supermarket deliveries.

Doug added: “The local Redburn Cafe has started local takeaways, so they’re an occasional treat! No one has visited us for weeks now, except for delivery drivers and the postie. We’re here in isolation for the long-haul if needs be – together with a growing forest for the future.”

As well as being an internationally important forest restoration site, Dundreggan is a biodiversity hotspot that is home to over 4,000 plant and animal species. Discoveries include several species never recorded in the UK before, or previously feared extinct in Scotland.

Trees for Life plans to open the world’s first rewilding centre at Dundreggan in 2022 which is expected to welcome over 50,000 visitors annually.

This will allow people to explore, discover, and learn about the region’s unique wildlife including golden eagles, pine martens and red squirrels.

So far its volunteers have established nearly two million native trees at dozens of sites, encouraging wildlife to flourish and helping communities to thrive.

You can learn more about the great work of Trees for Life on their website.

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