02 December 2022

Major replanting scheme to introduce more native broadleaf woodland in the aftermath of winter storms

Aberdeenshire Council is to embark on a major replanting scheme to introduce more native broadleaf woodland in the aftermath of last year's damaging winter storms.

More than 20,000 trees had to be felled across the region as a result of the repeated storm events which occurred in quick succession throughout the winter of 2021/22. The vast majority of tree loss, particularly in larger woodland sites, was of conifer species and in particular spruce. 

In excess of 30 hectares of council-owned woodland - just under 10% of the total woodland resource of 365ha - were flattened and considerable damage occurred within parks and open spaces where trees were snapped or uprooted. 

The storms also affected trees and woodland within 15 of the council’s Tree Preservation Orders where the damage varied from minimal tree loss within an area of woodland to uprooting of all trees included in the order.

However, during a meeting of the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee on Thursday (Dec 1) councillors heard that the devastation has provided an opportunity to replant affected woodlands with mainly broadleaf native species with an element of Scots pine.

Aden and Haddo country parks were historically planted with conifer species intended as a source of income for the estates and therefore while the replanting proposals for these sites include a larger element of native broadleaved woodland than previously, new planting will also include areas of non-native conifer species. 

The long-term aim for these areas is for the woodland to be managed using the principles of continuous cover forestry to ensure a mix of ages and species within the woodland and to establish attractive, diverse and productive woodlands which ensure a continued source of income for the council in the management of its woodland estate.

Replanting, a condition of the post-winter felling permissions for each site, is expected to commence in the 2023/24 planting season once all site clearance and preparation works are complete.

Felling permissions to clear windblown timber were secured from Scottish Forestry for each of the sites affected. In each case felling permissions have been issued subject to restocking conditions and therefore there is a legal requirement to replant the lost woodlands with new trees.

Following committee, Councillor John Crawley, chair of the Infrastructure Services Committee, said: “The storms which the region witnessed a year ago not only caused widespread damage to property within our communities, but the impact on our woodlands was significant and heart-breaking. However, with felling and clearing works having been undertaken, it will enable us to replant these woodlands with a more appropriate mix of species which will create diverse and sustainable forestry for the future.”

Vice-chair Cllr Isobel Davidson added: “While the storms may have been unexpected and the damage to woodlands considerable, it has presented the council with an opportunity to take a holistic view of the management of all our woodlands. I am delighted to hear that officers are currently considering the possibility of developing a single Aberdeenshire-wide woodland management plan which will allow for detailed consideration of individual sites while also ensuring a comprehensive overview of the council’s woodland estate.”