By Susan Swarbrick
Ben Quarcoo, operations forester for Forestry and Land Scotland
I HAVE worked in forestry for 14 years and cover the central belt stretching all the way from South Lanarkshire up towards Stirling.
My area includes Whitelee Forest at Eaglesham Moor, the Kilpatrick Hills, Lennox Forest, the Campsie Fells and into the Carron Valley. Most of the land isn’t within high population areas, but there are some woods in or around towns or cities such as Cardowan Moss in Easterhouse, Drumchapel Woods and Greenoakhill near Glasgow.
I was born and grew up in Ghana. It is in the tropical belt and the persistent heavy downpours – there is only a short dry season – help to create broad-ranging diversity. The trees grow almost year-round, but here in Scotland we have two distinct growing seasons: spring and summer.
Before moving to the UK, I worked for the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi where I researched forest management, soil civilisation, tree establishment and water catchment quality. I completed a master’s degree in environmental forestry management at Bangor University in Wales and joined Forestry and Land Scotland, formerly Forest Enterprise Scotland.
My role involves everything from ensuring ground conditions are well prepared to managing drainage. There are utility services across the forest estate with gas pipelines, underground cables, water supplies and overhead powerlines all criss-crossing, so you need to know what you are doing and where you are digging. We construct firebreaks – clearing a strip of open space at least five metres wide – so that if wildfire breaks out it can’t quickly ravage the forest.