Culbin Forest near Findhorn and Forres will 'take generations' to recover from fire
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Culbin Forest will "take generations" to fully recover from the three-week fire at the end of September, Forestry and Land Scotland has said.
The organisation is urging all visitors to avoid lighting fires when out and about in a forest.
John Thomson, Forestry and Land Scotland's east region manager said: "If more people who profess to love Scotland’s forests were aware of the true extent of the damage there'd be a greater willingness to avoid lighting campfires and using disposable barbecues.
"In the aftermath of a fire there are always dramatic images of charred and blackened trees but the real, long-term impact is often not something that is given any thought."
An area the size of about 28 football pitches was destroyed in the man-made sand dune forest.
At its peak there were multiple fire engines on the site, supported by a helicopter.
Forestry staff also helped saturate the area to prevent it from re-igniting.
However despite these efforts, which were complemented by some rainfall, the fire smouldered underground for three weeks.
Culbin Forest is home to over 500 species of flowering plants including many rare species such as one-flowered wintergreen, twinflower and coralroot orchid.
In addition to being a designated site of international importance for birds and insects, Culbin also contains over 450 species of fungi and 150 of lichens.
One species of fungus – the sand deceiver – is not found at any other site in Britain.
Mr Thompson added: "Culbin is a 'jewel in the crown' site enjoyed by a great many people, both locals and visitors alike.
"But it is vital that everyone recognises that this is not a location suitable for campfires and barbecues.
"Any forest fire is a potential disaster but when it affects a forest like Culbin, there is a huge amount of untold damage.
"Animal and insect species might be able to slowly re-colonise but for plant species the process is much slower.
"Grasses might begin to re-emerge within a few years and ericaceous shrubs, such as cowberry or blaeberry might be back within a decade or so.
"But the fungi and lichens will not recover for many decades and new trees might not reach maturity for 50 years, or perhaps even a century.
"As the recovery process takes place, new species might well find a niche in the new forest structure that will emerge.
"But the old forest as it was will never return."