Tree planting part of solution for A83 landslips

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Preparatory works to get the hillside above the A83 Rest and Be Thankful ready for ‘woodland creation’ will begin later this month.

Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) is working in partnership with Transport Scotland to start erecting deer fences.

These will protect the saplings of a range of tree species that are to be planted in autumn next year to help maximise ‘slope stability’.

The new woodland, which would take 30 years to fully establish, will however begin to bind the slope from the moment of planting, said FLS.

And the effect will cumulatively increase year on year, said James Hand, an FLS operations forester.

He said: ‘The deer fence is a crucial first stage because protecting the saplings and other vegetation from deer and other mammal grazing is crucial to ensuring rapid establishment of the new woodland.

‘The mix of species selected for the woodland will help it withstand events associated with predicted climate change, particularly those associated with sudden heavy rainfall incidents.

‘The trees will complement the hard engineering that has been done at the site to help stabilize the slope and protect the road infrastructure.

‘Working in tandem, both approaches will help to mitigate the challenges presented by this notoriously unstable slope.’

The bulk of the fencing work will take place in the spring and summer of 2021.

The Rest and Be Thankful from the south approach as it is now
The Rest and Be Thankful approach from the south in 30-plus years

George Fiddes, Transport Scotland’s special projects manager, said the vital deer fencing works marked an important milestone.

‘We look forward to continuing to work with Forestry and Land Scotland on this key project which forms part of the Scottish Government’s wider landslide mitigation works at the A83 Rest and Be Thankful.’

As well as protecting the trees, the fence will reduce grazing pressure and help develop a network of native woodland.

Careful consideration has to be given to selecting the correct species of trees and shrubs best be able to cope with the extreme conditions.

Mr Hand added: ‘Anything planted at this site should not only be able to provide the rooting structures that will help slope stabilisation but should also be resilient enough to survive in this environment.

‘Sourcing Scottish plants from local areas, as close as possible to the site, means we’re benefitting from the plant species that are adapted for the current local environment and that are most likely to be resilient to a changing climate into the future.’

The combination of species will include downy birch, aspen, oak, blackthorn, hawthorn, hazel, juniper and Scots pine.

As well as enhancing the landscape and contributing to the scenic value of the national park, the mix of species will be good for biodiversity, for example by increasing the amount of prey species that sustain Golden Eagles, and providing cover for prey species and Black Grouse, said FLS.

The project overall will also protect water quality and riparian (watercourse) habitats, especially those associated with spawning salmonids.

Natural regeneration of native species will also be encouraged and there is scope for further planting nearby.

Information panels will be installed at points where new gates will be erected across traditional access routes, to inform walkers why the fence has appeared.