ForestHarvest: non-timber forest products in Scotland
GATHERING - Harvesting Guidelines
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The Scottish Moss Collection Code: Guidance for commercial moss harvesting
The countryside is a working environment. Please be aware of your own safety and follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. It is an offence to uproot any wild plant without the permission of the landowner, therefore, in accordance with the law and as a matter of courtesy, make sure you receive permission before collecting moss. Commercial harvesting requires an agreement with the landowner.
The least vulnerable sites for moss collection are conifer plantations.
Please avoid places where rare mosses are most likely to be found, these are:
Collection techniques vary according to the type of moss. Mosses should be collected by hand, or using hand tools. Weft-forming mosses (those that form a mat on the ground) can be harvested using a rake.
Leave patches of moss so that they can re-grow, only collecting half of what is present.
To allow moss to recover, do not collect from the same patch for at least 5 years. Re-growth times vary from site to site and with moss species. Re-growth tends to take around 5 years, but the area should not be harvested again until it has regained the condition it was in prior to harvesting.
Mosses that form a mat on the ground (weft forming mosses)), when found in plantations as described above, are least vulnerable.
Click on the names below for images of some common weft-forming mosses:
(Images copyright Scottish Natural Heritage.)
It is illegal to collect certain mosses which are protected by law. Lists of protected mosses can be found on the Joint National Conservation Committee's (JNCC) website under 'Species designations'.
Quad bikes are often used to take harvested moss away from the harvesting site. Repeated traffic over the same area of ground can cause erosion; to ensure that this does not happen, try to stick to drier ground and ensure that routes are varied.
As harvesting may take place in the same area over a period of several years it is important to record exactly where harvesting has taken place to ensure that areas are not harvested too frequently. Recording where harvesting is to take place will also ensure that harvesting areas do not overlap if more than one contract or agreement is being issued.
When contracts are made it would also be sensible to work on the basis of a charge per bag (or other quantity) so that it is easy to monitor how much moss is being removed from each area.
Thinning and brashing can help to maintain the levels of light reaching the forest floor as plantations mature.
With all mosses as with sphagnum, harvesting from areas which are about to suffer disturbance, such as by the harvest of timber, will minimise damage and increase efficiency. Any activities, such as surveys or the development of extraction routes, which must take place before the harvest of timber, can then be used to provide guidance or support for both timber and moss harvests.
This guidance was created by a group representing the interests of conservation organisations, land managers and moss harvesters and buyers.