This was a trip with many highlights and at first I found it difficult to choose just one but in spite of the incredible landscapes and nature we experienced first-hand, it was in fact the group itself that was the stand out highlight for me. To have a group of people from a range of backgrounds and roles that were all completely on the same page was both exciting and in many ways a relief. Large scale restoration of our landscapes here in Scotland is often a difficult message to promote and it’s easy to feel like a lone voice but it provided great comfort (and indeed many excellent conversations) to know there are others out there with similar passions to help restore what once was.
It was amazing to explore the regenerating forests in SW Norway and to understand better how native forests can develop with a lower browsing pressure.
Deer management practices differ between Norway and Scotland, with carcass weights used to determine deer quotas in Norway, indicating the overall health of the population and helping to balance its impacts on woodland regeneration.
Cultural and social factors have influenced the woodland regeneration we saw, from the abandonment of farms over the 20th Century to the different attitudes to hunting, foraging and land-use in Norway.
The diversity of species and structure in the Norwegian forest sets an example for us to aspire to in Scotland, and we need to consider how to integrate a rebounding forest within Scotland’s cultural and social setting.
Geographical Connectivity is the Natural Key
Norway has had a natural recolonization of all carnivores, due to be part of the continent Europe and neighbour countries fluxes. First wolves recolonized in 1980 to the south, through dispersion of the first wolves by likely Finish-Russian populations. The geographical position of the UK being an island doesn’t allow natural recolonization, and therefore it leaves the question to wether we could or we should intervene
Hunting in Norway is deeply engrained in the country’s history and its culture. This makes replicating its use as a conservation tool difficult for countries, such as Scotland, where hunting is regarded as merely a rich man’s sport. Nevertheless, there is much that Scotland can learn from Norway’s attitude to hunting.
By participating in the survey and reporting bag numbers the hunters themselves are key figures in game management. Due to the vastly different cultural heritage of hunting in Norway, where hunting is much more a way of life than an elite hobby, divides between shooting and conservation communities simply do not exist as they do in the UK. However it is inspiring to see what can be achieved when all parties recognise the requirement for robust and contemporary population data and work together to ensure gamebird hunting is carried out at a sustainable level each year.
The important role of the mountain forests for ground’s stability has been observed at Dovre National Park. Betula pendula, B. pubescenis, B. nana, Juniperus communis, and Salex spp cover waist area overhead 1000 m above the sea level between stands of coniferous and alpine zone. Roots system holds poor, stony and wet soil and well protects against landslides. The woodland habitat creates much better biodiversity than post-grazing grassland. That is a good example for land management of similar areas in Scotland.
Links to the best Norwegian websites and databases fpr conservation.
Land management continues to be highly sectorial in Scotland, with different sectors (arable farming, conservation, game management) working in isolation, competing for limited natural resources. This has led to significant land use and human wildlife conflicts, resulting in a culture of distrust among the different stakeholders. In contrast, Norwegian land management is based on a more integrated system, with a greater culture of land stewardship, trust and shared values amongst its stakeholders.
The area of Norway we visited has a number of large herbivores present in its woodlands. These include Moose, red and roe deer, with Reindeer found further north. Looking at the sites we visited their impact on the regeneration of the forests seems to be minimal, despite the fact that pinus spp. are generally prone to browsing damage. In contrast to scotland where these herbivores are generally treated as a pest in forestry terms, in Norway they are treated as a valuable forest resource, giving an valuable annual income from the sale of shooting rights and meat/skins. (up to £2800/moose for meat alone). The only area where we saw a substantial impact on forestry was in areas where the moose were fed in the winter. Winter feeding is carried out to draw the animals away from the valleys and roads in winter, and this increase in densty in the feeding areas has had a major impact on the regeneration of trees.
Nature Exchange 2011 – Large Mammals in Norway – Final Report View this report as PDF. The visit was hosted by Hedmark University College at the Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management. Hedmark County in south-east Norway. A joint report by, Colin Bean, Craig Borthwick, Grant Carson, Donald McCuaig, Graham Neville, David Sutherland and […]