New guidance issued by Scottish Forestry is encouraging the use of ‘less disruptive’ techniques when preparing the ground for tree planting.

This will be particularly targeted at reducing ploughing on peaty soils, which are a great storing medium for carbon unless disturbed, and are also vital for biodiversity.

After October 1, Scottish Forestry will not accept any Forestry Grant Scheme applications which include ploughing on soils where peat depth exceeds 10 cm.

The move follows scientific analysis of soils carried out by the Forest Research agency, which found that ploughing on soils with an organic layer greater than 10cm represented a significant risk of soil carbon emissions and might mean that the soil does not begin to sequester carbon again for another 20 years or more.

Welcoming the move, Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Land Reform, Màiri McAllan, said: “Our forests and woodlands have a huge part to play in tackling climate change by soaking up millions of tonnes of harmful emissions while supporting the Scottish economy – generating around £1 billion each year and supporting 25,000 jobs. As such, it is important to review and update guidance for the industry.