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There are plausible natural factors that could account for the open nature of the landscape without inferring human influence.

Openness can arise because the soil provides sub-optimal conditions for tree regeneration, combined with the fact that the moorland vegetation can support herbivore populations in excess of that optimal for tree regeneration.

For a full description of the vegetation see Mc Vean and Ratcliffe (1962), Burnett (1964) and Averis et al.

(2004); these, together with Ratcliffe and Thompson (1988), also give good accounts of the inter-relationships of climate, soils and vegetation.

is a feature of a natural, oligocratic phase rather than a feature of a phase that is perhaps more likely in other areas of Europe.

The area under consideration in this paper (Figure 1), referred to as ‘the Scottish uplands’, comprises the less fertile areas of Scotland that, except in the immediate vicinity of settlements and along certain valley floors, have not been improved for agriculture. Although there are uplands in southern Scotland, these are beyond the scope of this paper. Coupling of soils and vegetation in peatland succession.

a postglacial trend of woodland expansion followed by decline, has also happened in the Holocene. In: Schneider SH, Miller JR, Crist E, Boston PJ, editors.

This paper expands on this idea and, focussing on one particular region, attempts to identify ecological mechanisms which could explain how an open, treeless landscape could be a natural feature of the area during the current climatic period, i.e.

This phase begins before the climatic deterioration that leads to the next glacial cycle, suggesting that soil leaching and iron-pan development occurs independently of climate change; this phase of soil ‘regression’ before the onset of climate change has been called the phase (Andersen 1966).

There has been much debate as to how much the onset of forest regression in north-west Europe in the current interglacial, the Holocene, has been due to natural edaphic and climatic factors and how much due to the arrival of Neolithic people; Birks (1986) has summarised the mechanisms and evidence for both natural and anthropogenic forest decline in north-west Europe as a whole, and identified a phase unique to the Holocene. The native woodland resource in the Scottish Highlands.

that their treeless nature is largely anthropogenic, brought about by domestic stock grazing, tree felling and burning, and that woodland would naturally be the climax vegetation up to a climatically determined tree-line. Cambridge: Natural Environment Research Council, Institute of Terrestrial Ecology.

The aim of this paper is to challenge the dominant ecological paradigm for the uplands, viz. The pedogenic effects of different species and vegetation types and the implications of succession.

Darling 1947; Mc Vean and Ratcliffe 1962; Bennett 1995; Peterken et al. O’Sullivan 1977; Birks 1988a; Bennett 1995; Huntley et al. However, although common in certain areas, peatland is by no means dominant throughout upland Scotland so that peatland expansion cannot be the only reason for woodland decline.

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