Mountain woodland

Working to restore a vanishingly rare upland habitat

Mountain (or montane) woodland is a habitat consisting of short, hardy trees that should grow from around 600m above sea-level right up to the UK's highest summits. Our mountains would once have been adorned with these ‘wee trees’, but muirburn and increased grazing pressures from deer and sheep have made this special habitat extremely rare in Britain.

Why is mountain woodland important?

Mountain woodland is an excellent habitat for a wide range of plants and animals. Montane willows provide an early nectar source for pollinators while upland flowers can support specialist insect species found in a handful of places across the UK. Small mammals like field voles and ground-nesting birds such as the ring ouzel thrive here too, as do the animals which hunt them like predatory mammals and raptors. Even people benefit from montane woodland. Willows and dwarf shrub plants consolidate steep slopes and reduce severe flooding downstream.

Bla Bheinn Trees - Chris Rutter

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Why is mountain woodland threatened?

Due to the harsh climate at these altitudes, mountain woodland is slow-growing, and won’t grow much higher than your knees. As deer and sheep numbers increased, the tasty little trees began to disappear, resulting in our natural tree line now ending far shorter than 600m.

What are we doing about it?

As well as planting thousands of mountain woodland species at Glenridding Common, we are also working to reduce deer numbers across the other sites that we manage. Over time, boosting plant numbers of these fragile poulations and reducing grazing where they grow will allow the trees to self-seed and regenerate naturally.

What to look out for

Willow trees are one of our upland specialists. We plant downy willow, tea-leaved willow, eared willow, dark-leaved willow and many more. This is because they love damp ground, which we have lots of. Other species such as dwarf juniper and dwarf birch also excel at this altitude.

Planting willows at Glenridding

Mountain woodland - aspen stand at Corrour

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