This project aims to make the most of the many eyes and feet out in the Scottish hills to help us locate trees from a forgotten habitat that we want to restore in our beautiful hills. The mountain birch was once widespread across our hills, as it is now in Norway, growing above the height of the pinewoods and below the height of the open heaths. This was a rich habitat with many birds, mammals and plants finding refuge from the harsher weather at those higher altitudes. An open woodland of scattered trees, scrubby willow and juniper, and open heaths and grasslands.
The mountain birch itself seems to have something about it that allows it to grow at these high altitudes, between 600-850m roughly, that the lower ground downy birch doesn’t have. It is therefore crucial that we find the last few remaining mountain birch in Scotland so we can collect seed and grow on the next generation of mountain birch for use in ecosystem restoration schemes across Scotland.
What to look for:
- Small or large trees, often with multiple stems
- Over 650m altitude
- Birch most important but also seeking records of rowan, bird cherry and aspen.
Where to look:
- Inaccessible ledges
- High altitude gorges
- Steep scree slopes
- Beside burns/allts
- Islands on high-altitude lochans
The Mountain Birch Project is a project drawing expertise from Reforesting Scotland, the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and other interested parties from across Scotland.
Here are some examples of mountain birch in Scotland, and also a few photos from Norway showing what this habitat can look like!
Here are a few links that give a bit more context and background to the project:
- Scottish Rewilding Alliance article – https://www.rewild.scot/rewilding-stories/the-search-for-scotlands-mountain-trees
- Reforesting Scotland Gathering 2020, Duncan Halley’s talk (this link should link straight to the right part of the video) https://youtu.be/XNl3FI3mMYU?t=343
- Mountain birch presentation by Duncan Halley giving more insight into the habitat: PowerPoint Presentation (nina.no)
- Short video about the project – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cpk1l0OXwec
Submit a Record
Please include as many details as possible in your record, thanks! Grid references can be found using an online map tool such as https://gridreferencefinder.com/ or https://explore.osmaps.com/
DaveL · January 14, 2022 at 12:38
Great initiative! Will you be able to publish a live map of reported sightings in due course?
Al Whitworth · February 15, 2022 at 10:07
It would be great to add a map in future yes and we will look into this. Thanks.
Duncan Francis · April 6, 2022 at 15:17
Agreed, an interactive map would be extremely useful. Apart from anything else it would reduce multiple reporting! As well as at the same time suggesting places to look.
Kamila · May 6, 2022 at 20:58
I agree with the above suggestion.
Nonetheless, a great read!
Thanks for sharing
Val · January 21, 2023 at 12:42
Are you interested in all high level trees including non-natives? After all, they do have a “direct influence on soil and microclimatic conditions”. I hope you are not going to be like the RSPB and put out Norway spruce.
Val · January 21, 2023 at 13:14
Sorry, typo in the above – “pull out Norway spruce”. Same practice with different motives by gamekeepers getting rid of perches for raptors.
Alan · January 21, 2023 at 17:03
Hi Val. We are only interested in records of native species. We wouldn’t go and pull out non-natives, but the project is about propagating altitude-adapted individuals of our native species to restore the montane scrub belt. We wouldn’t want to go and collect seed from Norway spruce.