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A History of the Native Woodlands of Scotland, 1500-1920$
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T.C. Smout and Alan R. MacDonald

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780748612413

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748612413.001.0001

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(p.388) Chapter 15 Conclusion
A History of the Native Woodlands of Scotland, 1500-1920

T. C. Smout

Alan R. MacDonald

Fiona Watson

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter presents some concluding thoughts. At first sight it appears that the native woods of Scotland were not managed sustainably. From covering half or more of the land surface 5,000 years ago, they were in steep retreat from the Bronze Age onwards, much of the land was open when the Romans appeared, and the next 1,500 years saw further loss. By 1750, the extent of Scotland under wood was a little less than 10 per cent. The percentage under ancient semi-natural wood then fell to about 3 per cent around 1900 and is now about 1 per cent. However, one must also realize that much of the decline was either caused by or assisted by climate change of an entirely natural kind, and that it is now recognised that biotic communities seldom tend naturally towards stability but towards alteration. It is largely fruitless to speculate upon exactly how much of the collapse of the forests in prehistory was natural and how much man-made, but the onset of marked climatic oceanicity around the start of the Bronze Age would have severely changed the forests irrespective of any human intervention.

Keywords:   Scotland, native woods, forest decline, climate change, human intervention

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