Ariane Burgess in the Scottish Parliament

Action to dramatically expand Scotland’s lost native woodlands will be vital in protecting the country from climate and biodiversity crises, the Scottish Green Party’s rural affairs spokesperson Ariane Burgess has told the Scottish Parliament.

The Highlands and Islands MSP warned colleagues not to underestimate the role played by forests in protecting soils from erosion which in turn helps prevent widespread flooding impacting communities.

She also hailed the work being done by organisations including Trees for Life, Plantlife, The Langholm Initiative, The Woodlands Trust and community woodland groups in protecting and restoring woodlands across the country.

Against the backdrop of the tenth named storm since September hitting Scotland, causing trees to be blown down and other damage, Burgess said it only emphasised the need to do more to accelerate restoration work.She said: “As Storm Jocelyn rages outside, we should remember that healthy native woodlands help protect us from extreme weather events like this, by protecting soils from erosion and communities from flooding.

“Native woodland restoration is not a ‘nice to have’, it’s an essential part of the response to the climate emergency that is playing out in front of our eyes right now.”

Scotland’s native pinewoods cover just 2% of their original footprint, making it essential to speed up work in preserving and expanding them, she said.

Burgess also warned deer grazing was impacting efforts to restore forests, with 40% of Scotland’s biodiversity rich Atlantic rainforest being affected alone. She said: “Globally, Scotland is one of the last bastions for these important habitats, so we have a special responsibility to protect and restore them, she said.

“If we all work together we can save our globally important, locally precious native woodlands, so they can endure for centuries more – and create livelihoods that keep people in our straths and glens.”

She added: “Without increased efforts to save them, they could be lost forever.”

Burgess was speaking during her Members’ Debate at Holyrood marking the 10th anniversary of the Scots Pine becoming Scotland’s national tree.

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