Multi-functional forestry in the Cairngorms


Forestry policy in Scotland emphasises the role of the private sector in delivering both multi-functional forestry and continuing forest expansion.

PhD research on multifunctional forestry in the Cairngorms region, funded through a studentship from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, was completed in 2007.

The aim was to evaluate the potential for further development of multi-functional forestry in the region, particularly from a policy and planning context, taking into consideration both the range of owners’ objectives, and constraints facing forest managers in delivering multi-functional forestry.

The research focused on the significance of landownership, policy and the scales of management and governance for multi-functional forestry. A conceptualisation of multifunctional forestry was developed which includes a range of key criteria.

Two key themes which emerged from the research were:

  • Scale is of critical importance in conceptualising multifunctional forestry and many factors which constrain the management and governance of multifunctional forestry relate to ‘mis-matches’ in scale between the functioning of the ecological system (forest) being managed/interacted with and the scale of the social system managing, governing or interacting with this same system.
  • The multifunctionality of forest management is not a direct product of how forests are owned (i.e. under private, public, NGO or community ownership). Rather, different forms of landownership can result in variability in how the concept is applied and which aspects of multifunctionaluity are emphasized most strongly.