Environmental campaigners have aimed fire at Mrs Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP), dubbing its tree-planting policy as “totally irresponsible”. The SNP has promised to “lead the UK on woodland creation” by mass tree-planting, which is key to combating climate change by soaking up harmful CEO. But critics say the plans are threatening native species.
They have been supported by the TV naturalist Chris Packham, who says that harming native trees risks aggravating a “biodiversity crisis”.
Scotland has the most woodlands in the UK and Mrs Sturgeon plans to crease coverage from 19 percent to 21 percent of the country by 2032.
But most of the tree will be fast-growing, non-native species like Sitka Spruce, which are typical of US timber plantations.
Environmentalists question the type of trees being planted and their proximity to native woodland.
Campaigner Audrey Baird told Sky News: “My big worry is that we’re going to be covering our countryside with all of this monoculture, non-native forestry that’s from North America mainly, and it just shouldn’t be here in Scotland.
“They out-perform our ancient oak trees and other native trees, they just take over.
“The seeds get blown around on the wind, they get into our ancient and native woodland and they block out all of the light.
“They just kill everything. It is totally irresponsible and short-sighted.”
Broadcaster Chris Packham told Sky News the Scottish government’s tree-planting strategy raises issues around biodiversity and the life of a forest.
He said: “Ancient woodland doesn’t necessarily mean old trees, it means trees being there for a long time – established, robust communities of plants and animals that will continue to flourish if we allow them to do so.
“It’s not just about the trees, it’s about all the fungi under the ground and the biodiversity that thrives because the trees are there.
“It’s not just a climate crisis, we’re in the midst of a biodiversity crisis, too. We lose all that life, we lose our life, so protecting these ancient woodlands is absolutely paramount.”
But the Scottish government rejects the claims.
A spokesperson told Sky News: “Protecting ancient woodland is vital and there is work ongoing to do this.
“There is no evidence to suggest that ancient woodlands are being lost to non-native tree regeneration in the way described. The current, principal threat to our ancient woodlands is from selective browsing by deer, which tend to prefer broadleaves.
“To tackle the twin crises of climate change and nature loss we need to plant a balance of mixed woodlands.
“We need broadleaves to boost the environment and nature and we need conifers for climate change as they lock up carbon faster, provide jobs, and bring around £1 billion to Scotland’s economy.
“We’re planting 80% of all woodland in the UK according to this balance.
“Sitka spruce is just one of a range of species that are planted on woodland creation schemes in Scotland. We do not allow sites to be planted with only one species and proposals are approved to benefit a range of priorities, including people, nature and the economy.”