Beinn Eighe named UK’s first genetic conservation area

Ancient Caledonian pine forest will now enjoy a special status as the UK’s first area designated for genetic conservation.

Beinn Eighe has now been registered as a gene conservation unit with the European Forest Genetic Resources Programme, a platform helping researchers to exchange information on genetic diversity, along with methods for improving the management of genetic resources in forests.

Pine trees in the Beinn Eighe national nature reserve have a distinct genetic composition from pines in other parts of Scotland, since they colonised the area via a different route after the last ice age.

A spokesperson at Scottish Natural Heritage, which manages the site, told ENDS the designation would mean conserving the genetic diversity of its Scots pine will be a priority. “We will focus on this conservation by ensuring natural regeneration, so that natural selection can continue to take place, in response to changes in the environment,” the spokesperson said.

The designation will also help to boost Europe-wide awareness of Scottish Scots pines, the spokesperson added.

“We’ve been working to restore and expand this unique woodland for more than 65 years,” said Jeanette Hall, a woodlands specialist at Scottish Natural Heritage, which manages the site.

She added: “Registering the nature reserve as the UK’s first gene conservation unit shows how committed we are to protecting and preserving these special trees. It also marks another important step towards meeting our international obligations on gene conservation.”

Scottish Natural Heritage indicated in a statement that the designation of the Beinn Eighe site would “act as a beacon for the UK, leading the way for genetic conservation unites to be established for all of our tree species”.

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