A section of Scotland’s longest road has become an unlikely hive for wildlife to flourish, a new report has revealed.

A new report studying nature recovery in Scotland, carried out by the Woodland Trust has shown that the central reservation of the A9 road has become a beacon for rewilding.

The Woodland Trust is launching their report at the Scottish Parliament today, with the paper aiming to show how wood and tees can drive nature recover to the benefit of the nation's population.

Other proposals in the 35-page paper titled ‘Trees and Woods: At the Heart of Nature Recovery in Scotland’ include a call for deer and grouse estates to switch to more nature-positive models.

However, the biggest standout is the unusual highlight of tree regeneration on the A9 central reservation since the section of the road was dualled in 1979. The stretch of road running for around six miles South of Dalnaspidal is almost exactly at the geographical centre of Scotland, and nature experts hope it can be the heart of nature’s recovery.

Images from the early 1990s show little growing on the central reservation but today many sections are thick with naturally regenerating trees including willow, birch, pine and rowan.

The Herald:

There are also trees growing between the road and the railway line. All likely seeded in from a few fragments of woodland clinging on in steep gullies, experts say.

They have been able to establish on this strip because the busy carriageways keep deer out and the central reservation is not subject to muirburn.

Woodland Trust Scotland Director Alastair Seaman said: “There is a strip of vigorous natural regeneration in the middle of the A9 South of Dalwhinnie.

“By stark contrast, the surrounding hills are almost entirely bare. Let's be clear, we are not saying build more roads to grow trees on, but that central reservation is a rebuke to the state of the surrounding hills along much of the A9.

“It illustrates the potential ready to be unleashed across the landscape when the burning and overgrazing stops.” 


The unlikely flourish of nature next to the busy road has been labelled as the A9 Paradox.

The paper also highlights an evidence-based standard that has been adopted by cities across Europe known as the 3-30-300 rule. It aims to recognise the importance of nature in urban areas and the benefits it brings.

The rule means every citizen should be able to see at least three mature trees from where they live and work, there should be a minimum of 30% tree canopy cover in every neighbourhood, and no one should be more than 300m from their nearest park or greenspace where they can experience nature.

The paper has set out a list of ‘practical and achievable actions’ needed to ensure that thriving native woods and trees contribute to Scotland’s nature recovery.  

The Herald:

The requirements are to:  

  • Reduce deer numbers and maintain populations at sustainable numbers that will allow our woodlands (and many other habitats) to recover and extend naturally. 
  •  Incentivise farmers to integrate native trees, woodlands and hedges into farming systems through the new farm payment systems that are currently being developed. 
  •  Develop new options under the Forestry Grant Scheme to incentivise the creation of river woods, urban woodland and mountain woodland, and new native woodlands that will extend and link our most important ancient woodland fragments.  
  • Establish a Rainforest Restoration Fund to restore this globally significant habitat by addressing key threats including Rhododendron ponticum, overgrazing and fragmentation. 
  •  Strengthen biosecurity measures to reduce the risk of importing new pests and diseases that threaten the future health and quality of our native trees and woods. 

Alastair Seaman added: “Nature is in trouble in Scotland. We are one of the most nature-depleted countries on Earth with one in nine of our species threatened with extinction. The Scottish Government has a goal to address this crisis by halting further biodiversity loss by 2030 and reversing it with large-scale restoration by 2045. Native woods and trees are vital to making that happen.

“This report outlines the significant role that native woods and trees must have in Scotland’s nature recovery and makes practical recommendations for the Scottish Government, Local authorities and landowners. Everyone benefits when our woods and wider landscapes are thriving for people and brimming with wildlife, and this report should inspire us all to act for vital nature recovery.”