We are pleased to announce that in early October we received news that our latest Ayrshire Rural and Island Ambition Fund (ARIA) project application had been successful. The Ayrshire Grown Project was developed with the aim of establishing a native tree nursery to help fulfil the increasing demand for trees sourced and grown locally to support environmental, agricultural and community-based planting across Ayrshire.
With support of the ARIA fund, we are now able start collecting, preparing and planting seeds to start our native tree stock, as well as train our staff so they are equipped with the knowledge and skills to run a successful tree nursery.
Each year we deliver a wide range of river restoration projects. Many of these projects include riparian tree planting as a means to improve the local biodiversity, stablise eroding riverbanks, provide shade for our rivers, create connectivity across catchments and restore woodland habitats.
For this to be achieved at the scale we require, we plant hundreds and thousands of trees each year. Often these trees are grown in Europe and imported to the UK bringing with them the potential for diseases and pests to be introduced to the country. Unfortunately, we are already experiencing the fallout from the introduction of Ash Dieback which can kill up to 80% of Ash trees Read more here.
To address this risk and reduce the carbon footprint associated with importing trees, we decided to embark on our own journey of starting an Ayrshire based tree nursery. This meant we could track each tree from seed to sapling, and ensure that each tree is planted in an area where it is adapted to the prevailing growing conditions.
Initially, we envisioned most of our trees being used to restore Ayrshire river catchments however we wish to provide a local source of native trees for anyone who wishes to plant trees in Ayrshire.
Drone images showing the severity of the erosion and lack of riparian trees along a section of the River Ayr in 2022. Subsequent tree planting in 2023 to address erosion and biodiversity issues.
At the start of October our staff were out collecting seeds, berries and cuttings from across Ayrshire. To ensure we can trace the origin of each tree and plant it back into the same area, we have created a database using ArcGIS. Out in the field, we can use our phones to record data, map the collection location and photograph the parent tree. This mapping database also helps us to identify any gaps in our collection range and prioritise our efforts. Eventually, we plan to use this database to monitor our future planting work.To allow us to take full advantage of ArcGIS for this project, the ARIA fund has funded a new work laptop and time for our staff to familiarise and learn how to use ArcGIS.
Sloes collected from Blackthorn trees growing alongside a burn in Ayrshire.
ArcGIS fieldmaps app allows us to collect and map seed collection infomation in the field
Our staff collecting seeds and berries amongst the undergrowth
We will be back to update you about our November activities!