Almost seven million trees have been felled in the north of Scotland to make way for onshore wind farms since the year 2000, according to new figures.
The data, which relates to national-owned areas run by Forestry and Land Scotland, shows that only 12 wind developments account for more than 6,700,000 trees being cut down.
The figure is nearly half the 13.9 million total across Scotland.
Grampian has seen 816,000 trees felled to clear the way for three onshore wind projects, while the Highlands and Islands has had more than 2.3m cut down due to three developments.
Argyle and Bute has the highest figure, with more than 3.5m trees removed to build six wind farms.
Forestry and Land Scotland manages the country’s national woodland and territory on the behalf of the Scottish Government.
The government claimed last night that the felled zones represent “less than 1%” of Scotland’s total woodland area.
It added that many of the felled trees “will have been replanted on site or replaced through compensatory planting by developers”.
But Highland-based wind farm campaigner Lyndsey Ward called the situation an “utter farce”.
She said: “Not only are millions of CO2 absorbing trees being felled for turbines, hundreds of thousands of acres of ancient carbon-holding peat are being dug up too.
“These figures are astronomical enough, but if you add in the infrastructure requirements and grid connections many more trees will have been sacrificed and peat lost as remote wind factories are connected to a grid that cannot cope with them.”
More than 50 onshore wind farms are in operation in the north of Scotland, however most of those are operated by private developers, such as SSE, Vattenfall and EDF Renewables.
The first onshore wind farm built on Scottish Government-owned land was the Argyle Deucheran Hill project in 2001.
A Scottish Government spokesman said onshore wind farms play an “important and growing role” in fighting climate change.
He added that the government “aim to plant 30 million trees a year by the end of this Parliament and 36 million a year by 2030”.
Forestry and Land Scotland agreed that many of the trees removed during wind farm construction would be “replanted on site”.
It added that around 272 million trees for new woodland has been planted since the year 2000.
Morag Watson, director of policy at Scottish Renewables said: “The removal of trees during the construction of a wind farm – in the main from non-native conifer forests – is regulated by strict planning conditions.
“Planners can decide that an equal or greater number of trees are replanted on-site or elsewhere as compensation if they choose.”