Inverness Lecture: Too much woodland? Is the push for more tree cover reducing the naturalness of the Highlands?


Smithton Free Church, Inverness


Dr James Fenton


Tuesday, 12 December, 2017 - 19:30

Amongst most nature conservationists in Scotland there is an implicit belief in the Clementsian concept of plant succession to a stable climax vegetation and that such a climax in Scotland is woodland. Hence the absence of woodland across most of the Highlands is ascribed to human action, and anything which prevents return to woodland such as grazing must be unnatural.

This presentation suggests that, although there has been postglacial succession to woodland in many areas, the resulting woodland is not stable in the long term: there is further succession to open communities – the ‘telocratic phase of forest regression’ which has been a characteristic of previous interglacial cycles.

The open landscapes of upland Scotland, rather than being anthropogenically damaged, in fact represent one of the most natural vegetation patterns remaining in Europe.

This lecture is held jointly with the Inverness Botany Group. See their website for up-to-date information


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