How conservationists are saving Scotland's rainforests

May 22, 2019, 8:25 a.m.
moss-covered trees in rainforest in Scotland
Photo: Drepicter/Shutterstock

Scotland may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of rainforests, but U.K.'s northernmost country is home to these verdant habitats, though they are diminishing and under threat.

"Scotland's rainforest is just as lush and just as important as tropical rainforest, but is even rarer," Adam Harrison of Woodland Trust Scotland, tells The Scotsman.

"It is found along the West Coast and on the inner isles and is a unique habitat of ancient native oak, birch, ash, pine and hazel woodlands and includes open glades and river gorges. Our rainforest relies on mild, wet and clean air coming in off the Atlantic, and is garlanded with a spectacular array of lichens, fungi, mosses, liverworts and ferns. Many are nationally and globally rare and some are found nowhere else in the world."

The rainforests were once plentiful but many factors have resulted in their destruction. The forest are being lost to overgrazing by deer and livestock, invasive plant species and disease, reports the BBC. In addition, the land has been cleared for industry and harmed by pollution, according to The Herald.

The remaining oak, birch, ash, pine and hazel woodlands are small and are isolated from each other. Conservationists say they are over-mature and often show little or no regrowth.

How to save this special ecosystem

A group of 16 of Scotland's largest conservation organizations and charities are joining together to save the rainforests. The Atlantic Woodland Alliance has proposed eradicating several non-native plants, such as invasive rhododendron and Sitka spruce, while planting more native trees such as oak and birch. According to the alliance report, invasive rhododendron alone can be found in 40% of rainforest locations where it threatens to choke the woodlands and prevent traditional rainforest plants from flourishing.

Although the Scottish rainforest is threatened, the conservationists don't believe it's too late to be saved.

"Our vision for regenerating Scotland's rainforest is clear," says Gordon Gray Stephens, of the Community Woodlands Association. "We need to make it larger, in better condition, and with improved connections between people and woods."