An under-threat juniper woodland in Highland Perthshire is to be saved after being given thousands of pounds of funding.
The site at Balnagard Glen, near Pitlochry, is considered so important it is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) but damage from deer and a lack of new trees means the forest is at risk.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) has been given more than £36,000 to secure its future. The cash was given by Viridor Credits Environmental Company through the Scottish Landfill Communities Fund.
Eighteen hectares of healthy heathland habitat will be restored by fencing off part of Balnaguard Glen Wildlife Reserve.
Combined with bracken control by staff and volunteers and the introduction of grazing cattle for part of the year, it will create conditions needed for juniper woodland to naturally regenerate.
The project follows a small trial that has demonstrated how heathland can recover when grazing by deer is reduced.
Reserve manager Rab Potter said: “Balnaguard Glen is the second largest juniper woodland in Perthshire and this importance is reflected in its designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
“However much of this woodland is made up of older trees and unless young trees are taking their place there is a danger that that this important area will be lost.
“By fencing out unsustainable numbers of deer, bashing bracken, and introducing cattle to create a sustainable level of grazing we are hopeful of creating the conditions to allow juniper to regenerate successfully.
“This will benefit a wide range of wildlife, from insects that thrive on healthy heather and blaeberry, to black grouse and pine marten.”
Juniper is one of three native conifers found in Scotland. Surveys have shown it has been lost from 23% of areas in which it was formerly present and that almost half of the remaining sites are under threat, mainly from overgrazing.
Murdo Fraser, MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife and species champion for juniper said: “Balnaguard Glen is one of the most important strongholds for juniper in Perthshire but like many upland areas of Scotland, overgrazing has contributed to a serious decline.
“I’m pleased to see this important project has been supported by Viridor Credits and I hope that it will secure a long term future for the juniper stands here, as well as providing suitable conditions for a wide range of wildlife.”