A CONSERVATION charity is expanding its forest restoration work as less than half of Scotland's native woodlands is in satisfactory condition meaning there are fears for the survival of species such as the wildcat.

Trees for Life is marking its 25th anniversary this year with a more ambitious programme of planting across the Highlands and elsewhere, and new projects focusing on the recovery of endangered species including the red squirrel, pine marten, capercaillie and wood ants.

The charity is now extending the geographical range of its forest restoration activity from its previous project area of 1000 square miles west of Inverness and Loch Ness, and is exploring opportunities to restore neglected and derelict Caledonian pinewoods in other parts of Scotland.

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Trees for Life's executive director Alan Watson Featherstone, said: "Without urgent action, key parts of Scotland's ancient Caledonian Forest could be lost forever, and forest-dependent wildlife such as the Scottish wildcat and capercaillie could become extinct in the UK.

"As we celebrate 25 years of pioneering conservation action - including the planting of more than a million trees by our volunteers, and the creation of 10,000 acres of new Caledonian Forest - we aim to increase the impact and scale of our work. We want to ensure that our children and grandchildren also have the opportunity to enjoy Scotland's wild landscapes and its rare and spectacular wildlife."

He said that only 46% of Scotland's native woodlands are in "satisfactory condition for biodiversity" and much needed to be done to reverse centuries of damage. These were the conclusions of Scotland's first complete survey of these habitats, published by Forestry Commission Scotland. The report found that natural regeneration of native pinewoods was scarce.

Mr Featherstone continued that following a long history of deforestation, the Caledonian Forest had reached a critical point some 200 years ago, with too few remaining trees and too many deer eating seedlings - leaving 'geriatric' forests of old trees. Today only a fraction of the former forest survived, with 35 isolated remnants of native pinewoods.