A NEW fellowship has been formed to explore the opportunities for woodland creation within the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.

Despite a clear emphasis on woodland expansion from both the Scottish and UK Governments, and planting opportunities and incentives being on offer within the National Park, uptake of these by land managers has been limited.

The new Scottish Government-funded body hopes to change that by independently examining the opportunities and constraints for expanding woodland in the area in order to meet climate and biodiversity priorities.

Fellow Rob McMorran, from Scotland’s Rural College, will hear from land managers within the National Park to find out more about the decisions they make, and what can be done in practice to overcome them.

The fellowship will run until April 2021 and provide objective evidence to contribute to the National Park’s recently launched Trees and Woodlands Strategy, which highlights the value of trees and woodlands and outlines how they are to be protected and enhanced over the next 20 years.

While there is above-average woodland coverage – 31% – in the National Park, the strategy also sets out a target of 2000 additional hectares of planted or naturally regenerated woodland within the park by 2023, with a focus on native woodland. This will contribute to achieving the national native woodland creation target of 3000 to 5000 hectares per year.

Dr McMorran said: “The fellowship is an important opportunity to provide objective insights on the barriers of new woodland creation in the park from the land manager perspective.Woodland creation has an increasingly important role in relation to climate change mitigation and enhancing biodiversity.

“If woodland expansion is to continue, it is important to understand how this can occur in ways which complement existing land uses and offer diversification opportunities for land managers, to ensure it is seen as a viable and attractive opportunity.”

The Park's Director of Conservation and Visitor Operations, Simon Jones, said: “Developing new native woodland in the National Park will provide great benefits for biodiversity and in the efforts to tackle the global climate emergency.

“It’s therefore absolutely vital that we work with and support land managers to develop woodland creation proposals that help deliver on these key targets. This fellowship will provide valuable insight into existing barriers and how we can work together to overcome them.”