Nestled in the Scottish borders is a stunning area of hills and upland that is being restored to its natural state through native tree planting and land rehabilitation. Kirsty Schneeberger our Head of Partnerships joined the Borders Forest Trust and Forest Carbon to plant some saplings at the Talla and Gameshope site, and find out more about how carbon finance is playing a part.
The chance to participate hands on in climate action on the ground is always an exhilarating experience, turning the intangible into something practical and real.
Historically this site was an upland sheep farm. Grazing and land management had a detrimental impact on the productive capacity of the land and the wildlife and biodiversity that once thrived there. For nearly a decade, this project has been planting native trees to transform it back to a state of flourishing biodiversity. Since 2013, 220,000 trees and shrubs have been planted at Talla and Gameshope.
That misty Friday I was fortunate enough to be planting oak trees, as well as bird cherry and alder. The project at Talla and Gameshope focuses on planting native species of tree to restore the area as closely as possible to what it was like before sheep farming. We were shown how to identify the areas of land best suited to each species, how to prepare for planting, and of course the how to do the planting itself. It was a fantastic experience – to feel part of something bigger as we collectively worked hard to plant as many saplings as possible, and to know that our work was going to make a tangible difference.
In addition to playing a vital role in absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, trees are also critical in helping with flood prevention and enhancing wildlife and biodiversity, contributing to the overall ecological health of the area. Being there in the hills, surrounded by the beauty of nature, I could really appreciate the benefits that the project is already delivering.
The river that flows through the valley can be prone to flooding but the planting along the river will reduce that risk as the trees grow and mature. There is also an area of peatland that is being restored in the ‘Wild Heart’ area where peatland bogs have degraded and started to release carbon into the atmosphere. Restoring these bogs will ensure that we prevent further carbon from being released, begin recapturing some of what has already been lost, and restore the ecological health of the peatlands that are important habitats for native wildlife.
I was impressed by the sheer scale of the project, looking up at the hillsides and along the winding river; it has already achieved so much and will continue to do so. But the area in need of restoration is vast, it is expensive to run the project, and it relies on volunteers.
Carbon financing for the project is crucial to keep it running. Thanks to carbon finance, the Talla and Gameshope site will also be a benefit to communities that enjoy walking in the Scottish borders and experience the natural environment.
When I was little, I loved reading ‘The Lorax’ by Dr. Seuss and will never forget hearing for the first time the immortal words of the guardian of the trees:
Projects like the one at Talla and Gameshope are following in the Lorax’s footsteps and acting as guardians for the trees in these hills, ensuring that the land grows in ecological strength and health so that the benefits – reducing carbon in the atmosphere and bringing biodiversity back to the area – can be experienced by us all, for generations to come.
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