Ron Summers
British Wildlife 35.5 April 2024

Rewilding in the Scottish Highlands – natural regeneration of Caledonian pinewoods versus planting

Given the climate and biodiversity crises, the drive to rapidly restore tree cover over the Scottish Highlands is understandable, but is this coming at a cost to the existing Caledonian pinewoods and their freedom to spread naturally? In the 17th contribution to BW’s Wilding for Conservation series, Ron Summers makes the case for a greater role for natural regeneration – and a lesser focus on planting – in efforts to expand woodland in the Highlands.


Having lost much woodland over millennia, Britain has one of the lowest percentages of wooded land in Europe. In the north of Scotland, pinewood was the dominant woodland type in the mid-Holocene, but it declined in the period between 5,200 and 3,200 years ago, possibly owing to a change to a wetter climate, which favoured peat expansion.

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