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ForestHarvest: non-timber forest products in Scotland



Sustainable harvesting

Making the resource last

Natural resources, whether plant or animal-based, can only bear limited levels of harvesting. Collect too much and supplies inevitably decline, eventually leading to rarity or even extinction.

In many cases we do not know enough about the reproductive systems, ecology and population structure of non-timber forest product (NTFP) species to be sure about sustainable harvesting levels. These can only be determined by long-term research programmes, monitoring the effects of different levels of harvesting on plant and animal populations. Until we have such data, it is best to apply the precautionary principle, i.e. to err on the side of safety.

Basic sustainability
  • Don't uproot plants.
  • Don't hunt out of season.
  • Only take a limited number of leaves or fruits from a plant. This will leave it with the resources necessary to survive and reproduce.
  • Only harvest a limited number of plants or animals within a given area. Spread the harvesting load as widely as possible.
  • Take care not to damage the ecosystem.
Managing for sustainability

It is not just the level of harvest that contributes to sustainability, but also the method. Collecting wildflower bulbs, for example (illegal without the landowner's permission and illegal with protected species), can be made more sustainable by replacing the immature bulbs in the soil, and by harvesting on a rotation system. This leaves an interval of several years between successive harvesting in a given patch of woodland.

Selling sustainable products

Public awareness of the importance of sustainability is growing, and sustainable harvesting practices can potentially add a premium to commercial products. But how can the consumer be sure that a product has been collected sustainably?

One way of guaranteeing this is through the implementation of certification schemes.

Scottish pinewoods
Sustainable Forest Harvest project: monitoring NTFP harvests

Reforesting Scotland's Sustainable Forest Harvest project worked to develop methods for monitoring wild harvests. For more information visit the Sustainable Forest Harvest project page on the Reforesting Scotland website.

Sustainable harvesting guidelines

Scottish guidelines

There are 3 sets of guidelines for sustainable harvesting in Scotland:

Other guidelines:

Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI) code of conduct (PDF file 528KB)

Flora Locale have published a Code of Practice for collectors, growers and suppliers of native flora