Caledonian Pinewood Inventory


Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) has the largest natural distribution of any conifer in the world, ranging from northern Norway to Spain, and from Scotland across Europe and Asia to Siberia and north-east China. It can grow on a range of soil types, surviving where the rainfall is as low as 200mm, and/or where the temperature drops to -64 degrees C.

In Scotland, pines were an important component of post-glacial natural forests (the so-called Wood of Caledon) which covered an estimated 70% of the country. They were largely confined to the poorest soils, often occurring in association with birch, but they also grew in mixture with other species in natural transitions to oak, ash and elm dominated woodland on the better soils, and to willows and alder on wet areas. Over many centuries vast areas of these ancient forests were cleared, and pinewood regeneration was prevented, either by allowing the land to be grazed or by replanting it with other tree species, usually of non-native origin. Other adverse effects were the browsing of deer and 'muirburning' to improve the grazing or the age structure of heather on adjacent grouse moors.

Pinewoods vary enormously in size, structure and natural species diversity. In Deeside, Strathspey and the Beauly catchment the pine-dominated woodlands are relatively extensive, but in Glen Falloch and Glen Loyne there are only a few old trees scattered over a large area. Other pinewoods occur on steep cliff faces, or in gorge woodlands, such as at Glen Avon, Allt Chaorunn and Attadale, where there may be several age classes present. The wet western pinewoods are more fragmented and isolated than most, and are generally regarded as being in the poorest condition, occasionally merging with oak, alder and other woodland types, indicating that there is scope for re-creating large new mixed native forests in those areas.

There are also biochemical differences between pinewoods; these are indicative of genetic variation. Of the seven Regions of biochemical similarity identified, the North West Biochemical Region, near Kinlochewe, is the most distinct, exhibiting considerable differences between individual pinewoods. It is known from the analysis of pollen records taken from peat bogs that pine has been present in North West Scotland for at least 8500 years, but when combined with the genetic information one may begin to speculate that the pines we see now are the direct descendants of trees which survived the last ice age either in Ireland, or possibly on areas of the continental shelf exposed by the lowered sea levels at that time.

The pinewoods of the South West Biochemical Region, around Fort William, are another distinct group. They show less variation between the fragments, although it is believed that they had a similar history to those in the North West Biochemical Region. The biochemical characteristics of the other pinewoods in Scotland are not so dissimilar, and these pinewoods seem to have more in common with Central Europe pinewoods.

In 1959 Steven and Carlisle published their book 'The Native Pinewoods of Scotland', in which they listed and described most of what they regarded as surviving (ex-Caledonian Forest ) pinewoods. This stimulated an interest in pinewood conservation, and in due course the introduction of a number of incentives to support pinewood management and expansion. More recently the native pinewoods of Scotland have been listed as an endangered habitat in the EC Habitats Directive. They are also the subject of a costed Habitat Action Plan (prepared under the UK Biodiversity Plan) which gives quantitative targets for the protection, restoration and expansion of the pinewoods by both natural regeneration and replanting. These targets are based on an earlier version of this Inventory.

To prepare the Caledonian Pinewood Inventory, the current extent of the native pinewoods named by Steven and Carlisle, have been investigated. Some of the pinewood fragments which they thought were too small to form discreet pinewood habitats, have also been considered. The total pinewood area now included in the Inventory is nearly 18000 hectares, and comprises 84 separate pinewoods of various sizes. In all cases the balance of probability suggests that they are genuinely native, that is, descended from one generation to another by natural seeding.

In addition, each pinewood has:

• a minimum density of 4 pine trees per hectare, excluding trees less than 2 metres in height, or at least 50 pine trees per hectare where sites have been extensively underplanted but are deemed capable of restoration to a more natural state;

• a minimum of 30 individual trees, unless the wood has historical, aethetic or biological significance;

• vegetation which is characteristic of native pinewood, although possibly of a depleted diversity;

• a semi-natural soil profile, but accepting also sites with superficial cultivation such as shallow ploughing or scarification with some widely spaced drains.

Inventory Rules:

PINEWOOD FRAGMENT Recorded separately if more than 1.5km from another fragment.

REGENERATION ZONE Standard 100m but more if conditions indicate spread is likely to be greater (e.g. Glen Tanar). Where regeneration is likely to be less, such as a fragment of pine in an oakwood, then a smaller regeneration zone may be indicated (e.g. Loch Maree Islands). Area does not normally include open water unless the whole of the open water is within the pinewood and regeneration zone.

BUFFER ZONE Standard 500m beyond regeneration zone but can be extended further:- 500m beyond watershed or 700m above sea level (e.g. Gleann Fuar) link fragments together (e.g. Barisdale)

Buffer zones will not include extensive areas of open water (e.g. South Loch Arkaig) unless the whole of the open water is within the buffer zone. Where the buffer zone includes some ground on the other shore of a loch then the water will be part of the buffer zone (e.g. Loch Hourn).

PLANTED AREAS If of correct local origin then accept as pinewood if less than a third of total area of pinewood. The planted areas would be hatched on the maps and recorded as part of the regeneration zone not as part of the pinewood. Planted areas of correct origin, which are alongside pinewood, can have the regeneration zone round them (e.g. Doire Darach).

Where a planted area has just been planted or is to be planted and is more than a third of the area of the pinewood, then it may be considered as part of the buffer zone and the buffer zone may be extended to 500m beyond the planted area (e.g. Breda).

Planted areas of local origin which are more than 500m from the pinewood will be ignored.


FEATCODE: Feature Code FEATDESC: Feature Description PINEID: Pinewood ID PINENAME: Pinewood Name NGR: National Grid Reference COREAREA: Area of the core woodland (Ha) REGENAREA: Area of the regneration zone (Ha) BUFFERAREA: Area of the buffer zone (Ha) TOTALAREA: Total area (Ha) BIOCHEM: Biochemical region

Data and Resources

Additional Info

Field Value
Last Updated October 11, 2023, 12:11 (UTC)
Created April 11, 2014, 14:31 (UTC)