Following the end of the last Ice Age Scotland was quickly colonised by trees such as Rowan, Birch, Pine, Oak and Hazel. They build fungal networks at their roots which helped to build soils and encouraged a range of plants to grow. This diversity made an early Scotland an attractive, healthy place for Humans and other animals. The interactions of all this life is the basis for our ecology. Ever species affects its environment, an the more of these interactions we have the more robust any habitat becomes.
Tribes of hunter gatherer had regular routes they would follow through the seasons collecting nuts and berries, and hunting animals. Biodiversity and the strength of the woodlands meant that rich soils were formed, which were suitable for agriculture. Over time agriculture, rather than permaculture or other modes of living, became our default. This often meant clearing forests and indeed by the time the Romans arrived much of the forests of Scotland had been cleared for just this purpose. Longer term this meant our soils began to degrade and livestock became more important as an income source, leading to persecution of predators.
What we are now realising that the loss of so many species and so much native habitat is degrading all the land and leading to a less robust dynamic environment. Without our woodlands the soils that we rely on are being washed away. Insect numbers are down, many of our amphibian species are at risk of extinction. Even once common animals such as hedgehogs have now been placed on the endangered species list.
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." John Muir
Today we have less than 4% of our land covered in native forests, our key pools of biodiversity. Biodiversity is so important for resilience and adaptability, important in times of stress (think climate change and pandemics). It is important for our wildlife, to find food, shelter, and habitats in which to live. Biodiversity is important for us. It regulates our climate, prevents flooding, provides nutrient rich soils on which to grow our food. Most importantly it brings joy! Somewhere to explore, to go back to ourselves and experience the beauty in our world.
A day spent in woodlands boosts our immunity, lowers our stress levels, and brings us happiness. Think about any local woods that are near you. What have you noticed while you are there. What species are there? How do you feel after a visit?
Do you think we have enough woodlands? If not what can we do about it?