Montane scrub is the shrub habitat which forms an understorey within native woodland and continues up through the treeline, where tree species become stunted, and beyond, into the sub-alpine zone. Our Mountain Woodland Project aims to restore this whole continuum.
In 2001, Trees for Life became a member organisation of the Montane Scrub Action Group (MSAG) which was formed in 1996 with the principal objective of developing and promoting the vision for the restoration of montane scrub in Scotland: by promoting that vision, producing guidance notes for restoration and by compiling an inventory of site-based information.
The group is formed from a combination of government bodies, such as Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Agricultural College independent bodies such as the Macaulay Institute and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology; conservation bodies such as the National Trust for Scotland, Highland Birchwoods, the Caledonian Partnership, the Borders Forest Trust, and recreation groups such as the Mountaineering Council of Scotland.
The main problem facing those involved in the restoration of montane scrub is that this habitat has been so severely decimated that it has been lost as a viable habitat in Scotland. Although some of the constituent species can still be found, these are usually small fragments, and severely damaged by overgrazing. Dwarf birch, which can naturally grow to around a metre in height, often grows along the ground because of continued grazing. This has led to a lack of knowledge about montane scrub, in all its forms. Although the main shrub species are known: like the dwarf willows, dwarf birch and juniper, little is known of their reproduction and ecology and of their associated plants, animals and insects. At present, restoration projects rely on information from Norway, which is most similar to Scotland in terms of habitats and species, to envisage what the forms the mountain woodland would take in this country.
To redress this gap in knowledge and visibility, in April 2001, MSAG hosted a conference entitled "Montane Scrub: The Challenge Above The Treeline" which gave the opportunity for those already involved in research into, and the restoration of, montane scrub to share their experience with others in the field and with those interested in becoming involved in the future. To find out more about the MSAG see the web page on the Highland Birchwoods site.
The lack of visibility in the landscape, due to the plants' scarcity and diminutive stature, means that montane scrub is also absent in the awareness of the people in general, including politicians, so that at present there is no grant aid available for restoration work. To raise the profile of mountain woodland with government conservation and policy officials, the MSAG are holding a study tour in June 2004, which will centre around field visits to mountain woodland remnants.
To help compile an inventory of information on Mountain Woodland species, Trees for Life have designed a Dwarf Birch Recording Card, so that interested individuals can send in records of dwarf birch from around Scotland. The information will be put on a database, to be held by TFL, so that we can have a better idea of how much dwarf birch is currently present in Scotland, and what state of health it is in. A similar card was drawn up last year by the MSAG, for the dwarf willows, and is available from: David Mardon, NTS Office, Lynedoch Street, Killin, FK21 8UW.
If you know of dwarf birch in your locality or would like to go and look for some, please download this card (PDF, 423 kB) which is double-sided A4, and return to us, the Mountain Woodland Project, at Trees for Life.
|Thanks to Scottish Natural Heritage for funding the production of the Dwarf Birch Recording Card.|
Pages about montane scrub on this site
- Scientists crack genetic code of dwarf birch from Highlands forest restoration site – Press release November 2012
- Trees for Life - Return of the Wee Trees Appeal 2012
- Above the Tree Line by Tim Clifford
- Dwarf Birch information resource
- Dwarf birch species profile
- Help us to map the distribution of dwarf birch in Scotland
- Mountain Forest restoration project appeal
- Montane Scrub project update, Caledonia Wild! August 2008
- Dwarf birch survey in Glen Moriston - Summer 2008
- Dwarf birch surveys on Dundreggan
- Montane Scrub Project, Caledonia Wild! November 2008
- We're in the Action for Montane Woodland project
- Montane Scrub Survey in Glen Moriston 2009
Published: 27 March 2004
Last updated: 25 August 2010