Forest Enterprise Scotland is stepping up its focus on native broadleaved trees in a long-term programme to improve the quantity and quality of Scottish hardwood coming to market.
The move comes in recognition of the fact that Scotland’s national forest estate has a hardwood timber resource which is under-used, offering Forest Enterprise Scotland the chance to make more of what is already there.
Programme Manager, Julia Garritt, said;
“Our traditional focus has been on growing conifers to sustain the softwood processing sector and up until very recently, native broadleaved trees have really only been seen as an amenity and environmental asset.
“However, if managed properly, native broadleaved trees can also be a significant economic resource that can benefit many small-scale, specialist businesses and help supply a burgeoning, high value furniture making sector.
“There is also real potential for using hardwoods in construction, so we’re encouraging architects, engineers and builders to see the merits and qualities of hardwood timber.”
Focusing on five core species (Oak, Silver Birch, Downy Birch, sycamore and aspen), Forest Enterprise Scotland will use the best available seed from Scottish stocks - or UK stocks if Scottish seeds are not available. Planning and co-ordination will be a key element in the programme, making use of a supply-led system where trees are available to stimulate demand and planting programmes.
This will mean that the growing process will have to start five years ahead of the time when the trees will be required for planting.
Julia Garritt added;
“Some elements of broadleaves management are the same as for conifers, such as browsing control, but other aspects are very different. For example, we’ll need to use some different silviculture practices and we’ll want to make sure we have the skills to grade and value broadleaves. It’s even a different way of felling, moving and marketing logs.
“Initially we’re looking to bring 14,000ha of existing woodland into active production to maximise the benefit of existing stock but we will also be planting more broadleaves and looking to improve the quality of future stock.
“This is not just an economics-driven initiative though. Our work on productive broadleaves will also improve the structure and appearance of woodlands, making them both more biodiverse and more attractive places to visit.”