5th August 2015
Before we took over its management, large deer numbers meant that the land was heavily overgrazed. Now, in an area that was completely bereft of trees, we have planted many native species and seen a fantastic transformation. We’ve planted over 255,000 trees in three discrete areas covering a total of 258ha including reforesting our largest planting area at Dundreggan - Allt Fearna. Although we are still in the process of reducing deer impacts, we can see that changes are happening: vegetation is changing – becoming thicker and more lush, and deer impacts are declining.
We still need to reduce impacts further to allow tree regeneration to improve and this will be a focus for the next phase of Dundreggan’s development. One indication that the vegetation is responding is in the black grouse population where we recently measured a 50% increase. This was one of our target species for restoration work, so it is a tangible example of our success. We have carried out surveys of many different animal and plant groups and have found several new species for Scotland and Britain. The juniper aphid Cinara smolandiae was recently found in two new locations at Dundreggan – still the only site for this animal in the United Kingdom.
We’ve hosted over 2100 volunteers who have contributed thousands of hours of work to the estate, planting trees, applying phosphate fertilisers, marking fencelines to prevent bird strikes and slowly changing the Dalchriechart Plantation towards a Scot’s pine forest.
We’ve also been given a boost by SNH’s Peatland Action Fund, which we have used to pay for the removal of 17ha of non-native conifer plantation. This will enable us to begin restoring parts of the plantation back to bog habitat. Our tree nursery has expanded beyond recognition: we now grow between 40 – 45,000 trees each year for our 13 planting sites.
We have also initiated an ambitious indoor aspen orchard project – growing aspen trees in a controlled environment so that we can harvest seed from them and continue providing aspen trees for planting out, and this spring we managed the difficult task of collecting seed and germinating our first aspen seedlings. The first of many, we hope! We’ve also begun to explore the social and cultural history of Dundreggan and surrounds with recent surveys of heritage artefacts, and have found traces of summer sheilings, two iron-age roundhouses and a motte at the entrance of the Esate, all important in understanding the history of land use here.
Our efforts over these seven years have shown good progress as we continue towards our goal of rewilding Dundreggan. We're continuing this work so we can provide the necessary habitat for iconic Scottish species such as the black grouse and pine marten, and we can't do this without your support! Our exciting new Rewilding Dundreggan Appeal explains what we have planned and how you can help us continue for the next 7 years!
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