ForestHarvest: non-timber forest products in Scotland
|GATHERING | SUSTAINABLE HARVESTING | HARVESTING GUIDELINES | LEGAL AND ACCESS ISSUES | GATHERING CALENDAR|
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.
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.