Planting Trees In The Scottish Highlands

by | Apr 12, 2022 | Uncategorized

Written by Rebecca Woolford

Working To Lock Away Carbon and Restore Lost Forests

Working with our environmental partner Mossy Earth, we’re restoring the Caledonian Forest in the Scottish Highlands, to help to lock up carbon and bring the landscape back to a wilder state.

With every Rock My World booking a small contribution supports this project and many others. You can find out more here. 

Below are a few images from the Mossy Earth team at the tree planting site in Alladale Wilderness Reserve in Scotland. 

What Are We Planting?

 Scots pine and downy birch saplings, alongside a diversity of food-producing broadleaf trees, such as hazel and bird cherry, are being planted across the valley bottoms and hillsides. While alders, downy birch, willows and other important riparian tree species are being planted alongside degraded riverbanks.

Why Are We Focusing On Riparian Woodland Restoration? 

Riparian woodlands (forests adjacent to bodies of water like rivers) are rare in Scotland, with many riverbanks missing trees altogether.

We are focusing efforts here as these woodlands are important for stabilising the riverbanks, preventing soil erosion and reducing flooding. They also improve the health of the river by adding nutrients to the water in the form of leaf litter and invertebrates and creating shelter and shade for wildlife – which is critical in the face of a warming planet and warming river temperatures!

This is vitally important for Scotland’s fish species, particularly salmon and brown trout, which are threatened by the rising water temperatures brought on by climate change. 


What You Need To Know About Tree Planting

Tree planting isn’t a silver bullet. When it comes to tree planting people often talk about capturing carbon but the reality is tree planting can have a large carbon footprint itself. 

Large scale reforestation can disturb the soil and release large amounts of carbon in the process. Tree planting can even make climate change and biodiversity in the area worse if approached incorrectly. 

4 things you need to know about tree planting

  1. Planting mass numbers of a single tree species is known as a monoculture forest. They are favoured by some for their low cost and rapid growth. These types of forests degrade the land and can negatively impact the soil.   
  2. Planting non-native tree species leads to a forest that doesn’t support the ecosystem and local wildlife. It creates a forest that isn’t diverse at all.  
  3. Unsuitable locations or in other words planting trees in the wrong place still happens today. For example, in Scotland, there are large numbers of peatlands, which store huge amounts of carbon. Draining peatland to plant trees is a big NO NO.
  4. Did you know? A 2017 European report discovered that 85% of carbon offsetting schemes don’t follow through on what they promise and the carbon calculations varied widely. Find out more about why carbon offsetting is fraught with problems here. 

After all this, you may view tree planting in a bad light, like anything in life it can be misused OR it can be done well. 

Our environmental partner has done a great video here on this topic, explaining what tree planting done correctly can look like.  

By asking ‘why are these trees being planted?’ is a great question and starting point. This is why our customers can feel confident that we’re planting trees of the right kind in the right place. 

Let’s Reverse Centuries Of Ecological Damage In Scotland

Historically, much of the Scottish Highlands were covered in a forest of majestic Scots pine and colourful trees, home to a diversity of plants and animals. Today, the landscape is empty of these unique woodlands and many of the species that once thrived here. 

Our vision is to restore the empty glens and rewild the Scottish Highlands! It’s not that there aren’t trees in Scotland, it’s just there should be far more than there is. 

Scotland is already a beautiful country I hear you cry, indeed it is, we couldn’t agree more. But it’s also a degraded habitat. We need to step back in time and retrace the trees’ steps to understand better how this came to be. 


Let’s Go on a Journey Back in Time… 

  • 6,000 years ago was the golden age of trees in Scotland. These trees stood alongside bears and wild cats. 
  • 1,200 years ago Vikings arrived in Scotland. To build homes, ships, and all the other things forests were cut.
  • 400 years ago the Highland population began to boom. More houses were needed. 
  • 300 years ago sheep farming hugely increased which is bad news for trees, also charcoal burning didn’t help.
  • 200 years ago hunting became popular and still is today! There are around 1 million deer in Scotland – 1 deer for every 6 people. And that’s bad news for trees as they prevent woodland and shrubs from being able to regenerate and grow.

  •  100 years ago world war one consumed huge amounts of resources in wood and charcoal. And this is just the beginning…


Who Cares – What Have Trees Ever Done For Us? 

  1.  As flooding and extreme weather increases trees are a natural, completely free service that absorbs water like a sponge.
  2. Where there are less trees, there are less animals – so Scotland’s loss of trees has also led to the loss of many animals.
  3. Trees have been proven to improve our health and clean the air which we need to breathe. Trees are effective air filters. 
  4.  Whether for birds or small mammals trees provide crucial habitat for much of the UK’s wildlife.
  5. Trees also prevent soil erosion and protect our watercourses from harmful pollution in run-off.
  6. In the face of climate change, trees help remove the excess carbon from human activities.  
A deer in Scotland

A combination of sheep farming, unsustainable numbers of deer, and intensive land management for the ‘elites’ sporting purposes is restricting the ability of native woodlands to regenerate on their own.

“Forests are a fundamental component of our planet’s recovery. They are the best technology nature has for locking away carbon and they are centres for biodiversity.”

– Sir David Attenborough


Thank you to our amazing clients who are continuing to make this important rewilding project in Scotland possible by choosing Rock My World. Discover more about the Climate Hero projects here.