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Home News Loch Ness is home to a unique plantation of trees

Loch Ness is home to a unique plantation of trees

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It is known all around the world for its mysterious monster.

Now Loch Ness could help scientists solve a major puzzle even more problematic than that of Nessie – how to clean up our air and soils.

The area is home to a unique plantation of trees and experts hope a study of them will lead to a major eco-breakthrough.

Over the next four years, researchers will monitor the large-scale test site as they treat it with biochar, a charcoal-like substance made from forestry residue.

The black material is produced through pyrolysis, which involves heating organic matter to more than 250C in a zero-oxygen environment.

The team believes biochar could help remove thousands of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere while also improving soils. And it is hoped that adoption of biochar as a fertiliser could provide a new income stream for the forestry industry.

Mike Perks of Forest Research, the UK’s principal organisation for tree-related studies, said: “Forestry is a nationally important industry, but in Scotland it is concentrated on upland, nutrient-poor soils where new trees can be slow to establish.

“Biochar could help soil carbon recover faster, reduce the need for additional fertiliser during forest establishment and add value to the industry as an additional product.

“If a business model can be developed, this represents a huge opportunity for Scotland’s £2 billion timber processing industry.”

Funded by the by Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the project will see Forest Research – the research arm of the Forestry Commission – work with Edinburgh University.

Dr Saran Sohi, leader of the UK Biochar Research Centre at Edinburgh University, said: “Biochar has a range of benefits for the environment. As well containing nutrients like phosphorus, it contains a high proportion of highly-stable carbon. This carbon remains sequestered in biochar for centuries, so its sustainable production could be a powerful tool in the fight against climate change.”