Tree cheers for Highlands aspen project
A Catholic environmentalist has praised conservation charity Trees for Life for its latest project, which aims to produce a new generation of aspen trees in the Highlands.
Conservationists have encouraged the rare aspen tree to flower under controlled conditions which will allow it to create a new generation of saplings in the
The flowering will enable Trees for Life to produce ‘much-needed’ seeds that can be used for growing new shoots.
Trials to stimulate aspen branches to flower at Dundreggan conservation estate in Glenmoriston, near Loch Ness, have progressed ‘significantly’ since spring following some initial success over the past two years.
It means environmentalists can secure their own aspen seeds to increase the number of trees for planting in native woodlands.
Dr Edward Echlin, Honorary Fellow at Leeds Trinity University and an eco-theologian, welcomed the project.
“Sharing of indigenous trees is one of the greatest services we do for each other and our planet,” he told The Universe.
“Trees for Life, as its name indicates, deserve encouragement and gratitude,” he added. “Their reintroduction of aspen propagation by seed and the resultant increase of lovely aspens is a gift to all of us and our whole ecosphere.”
Meanwhile, Doug Gilbert, Dundreggan operations manager at Trees for Life, said the flowering of the aspen tree had been a “major breakthrough” and offers hope for a new generation in the Highlands.
“Having a seed supply to grow a new generation of aspen will help us transform the fortunes of a beautiful tree that provides a habitat for a wide range of organisms including mosses, lichens and invertebrates, many of which are rare and endangered in Scotland,” he said.
Conservationists say aspen has suffered more from deforestation than any other native tree in Scotland because it rarely flowers or seeds.
This means that once it has been lost from an area, it is unlikely to regrow.
Collecting seeds from trees in the wild, however, is said to be almost impossible because the species flowers in remote or inaccessible locations and pollination is rare.
Trees for Life has previously grown between 3,000 and 4,000 aspen trees a year for planting in the Caledonian Forest.
Being able to grow aspens from seed would allow the charity to significantly increase this number and enhance the aspen’s genetic diversity. “Under carefully-controlled conditions, Trees for Life has now successfully hand-pollinated female aspen catkins with pollen collected from male trees,” added Mr Gilbert.
“Those catkins will ripen in a few weeks time to produce seeds, which will be sown in the Dundreggan tree nursery to produce a new generation of young aspen trees.”
Picture: File picture of Aspen trees. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski).Tags: aspen, Dr Echlin, Dr Edward Echlin, Highlands, Trees for Life