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Geoscientist Online

The Native Woodlands of Scotland: Ecology, Conservation and Management

fyuiNot the normal kind of book being reviewed by Geoscientist it has to be said, given the title and subject matter; but we live in an inter-related world where geology impacts what happens on the Earth’s surface in many different ways. One of the most obvious, but often not considered, is how native vegetation depends on soils that are a product of surface geology.  

To be honest, while discussion on the influence of geology on surface vegetation is included this is not a defining aspect of the book. The book is well written and easy to read.

If you need or want to know how forests in Scotland have evolved since the last Ice Age then the first three chapters are an excellent introduction.  As ever, it is fascinating to read how multiple independent strands of research can be pulled together to give a complete oversight of how our world has evolved.

The impact of changing climate on vegetation, coupled with the nature of surface soils (so dependent on climate and geology), is well described and the different stages of woodland colonisation of a landscape scraped clean by glaciers is provided.  Soil fertility affected by changing climate and the impact on woodlands is a lesson for the future. One cannot ignore human impact either, and it is intriguing how a small population many centuries ago had such a significant impact on woodlands and forests. 

To understand the diversity and makeup of different types of woodland in Scotland in current times turn to the middle part of the book for a useful introduction.  Descriptions of the history, current distribution, ecology and management regimes are provided for native pinewoods and montane scrub; oak, birch and aspen woodlands; ash, elm and hazel woodlands; and wet woodlands.

The last third of the book discusses current and future potential for woodland in Scotland. The policies and legislation governing silviculture and woodland management is provided in summary – how will this change in the light of Brexit?  The final chapters look at different management techniques, discuss how woodland is being reintroduced (‘rewilding’ Scotland) and, finally, where you can visit different woodlands.  All in all, a useful book for conservationists working in Scotland.

Reviewed by James Montgomery

THE NATIVE WOODLANDS OF SCOTLAND: ECOLOGY, CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT by SCOTT MCG.WILSON. 2015. Published by: Edinburgh University Press. 271pp (pbk). ISBN 987 0 7486 92859 9. List Price 29.99.