ECOLOGIST James H C Fenton
* NEW * Note: My website address has changed to This is because after Brexit the .eu domain name will no longer be valid. The old address was
LOSS OF WILDNESS: 250 YEARS OF ENCROACHMENT INTO THE SCOTTISH HILLS I have an article in the current issue of Wild Land News (issue 94) analysing the long term attrition of the wildness of the hills. You can access the article here. Wild Land News is the newsletter of the Scottish Wild Land Group. ECOLOGICAL IMPACT OF HILL TRACKS Meanwhile the degradation of our upland landscapes carries on unabated: most NGOs and agencies do not seem to be interested in landscape conservation. What is surprising is that WWF Scotland, an organisation which is always, rightly, bemoaning habitat loss in other parts of the world, has little apparent interest in pursuing this in Scotland. It is recognised, for example, that building a road network in tropical forest is the first stage in subsequent ecological degradation. It is the same in the Scottish uplands: the ever-increasing length of new tracks being bulldozed into our hills and mountains provide a route for invasive plants to enter into the core areas. An example of this is the way that disturbed ground along the full length of the public road from Drumrunie to Achitibuie in Wester Ross has allowed gorse to colonise the whole stretch, introducing a new species into the landscape. Certainly we need to tackle climate change, but it also has to be accepted that new tracks built for renewable energy schemes (or for any other reason) can, in the long run, damage the very ecosystems that climate change mitigation is aiming to protect. The soil disturbance associated with tracks, in effect taking soil conditions back to early post-glacial conditions (well-drained, mixed soils with higher nutrient availibility), provides ideal linear conduits for plants, alien and native, which would otherwise be unable to colonise the surrounding vegetation underlain, as they are, by podsols and peats. No one seems to be tackling this issue, in the same way that no-one is tackling the issue of the the ever-increasing spread of Sitka spruce out from plantations. Hence our uplands are still continue to go to hell on a handcart… Or is that putting it too strongly?? Left , working down from the top: Gorse seeding colonising the sides of a track Spruce seeding onto the sides of a track Rushes & grasses introduced into blanket bog at a windfarm site Broom colonising an new hydro track in a location where it is otherwise absent Foxgloves, rushes, grasses and gorse introduced along a new hydro track Below: a brassica colonising a hill track in a location where it is absent from the wider countryside
A View from Argyll James Fenton’s perspective on current conservation issues Click here for previous blogs