The sector represents a major component of Scotland’s rural economy – providing significant employment and raw materials for wood processing industries. Sustainable forest management seeks to deliver these economic benefits alongside important ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and flood mitigation, provision of wildlife habitat and opportunities for recreation and a range of leisure activities. Pests and diseases threaten the continued long-term delivery of these benefits.
The forest area of Scotland expanded during the twentieth century through the efforts of the Forestry Commission and private owners to develop a domestic wood supply and provide rural employment. A number of introduced species, such as Sitka spruce, were key to afforestation of marginal agricultural sites and now are central to the wood processing industry. Woodland now occupies approximately 17% of the land area of Scotland and provides 44% of the GB softwood harvest, producing about 1.5 million m3 of sawn softwood. Plant health threats to the forestry sector include a number of recently introduced pests and diseases (e.g. Phytophthora ramorum, pine tree lappet moth, ash die-back), on-going management of endemic ones (e.g. large pine weevil and Heterobasidium annosum) and risks of those yet to arrive (emerald ash borer, Ips typographus and many other organisms potentially introduced through trade in plants, wood and packaging).
Heritage gardens play an important role in plant conservation. They house collections gathered over decades or even hundreds of years, including varieties of plants that may be overlooked elsewhere, fostering heirloom varieties and preserving biological diversity that is the raw material of adaptation. As well as being beautiful and tranquil sites of cultural heritage, these ex-situ resources are treasure troves of biological diversity. Arduaine Gardens shows us that tough choices can be necessary and important to preserve these collections and the surrounding environment.