Conservation Hiking

Mismanagement, over grazing and climate change threatens rare Scotland rainforest

A new report published by the Atlantic Woodland Alliance lays out the dangers facing Scotland’s delicate rainforest habitat. Also known as Atlantic Woodland or Celtic Rainforest, the unique habitat is home to rare lichens, mosses and fungi of which some cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

In Scotland, only 30,325 hectares of the rainforest (which once covered the coastline of Europe) survives. The Atlantic Woodland Alliance’s report suggests that with current efforts the forests are showing no signs of regeneration.

Overgrazing from wild game and livestock in the forests is such that re-growth is not currently possible. Additionally, the invasive species of plant (Rhododendron), which is found in 40% of rainforest sites, “threatens to choke the woodlands and prevent the distinctive rainforest flora from surviving.”

The Alliance also suggests that mismanagement of tree felling, dead wood removal and the coppicing (cutting back to ground level) of hazel woods has further contributed to the delicate state of Atlantic Woodland in Scotland.

Failure to “improve the protection of rainforest from grazing and invasives” is also highlighted in the report as an area in which stewardship of the forest could be better managed.

But the report emphasises that the forest can still be saved. Planting “a strip of only 50 metres of new woods around existing woodland, through a judicious mix of natural regeneration and planting, would create another 21,000 hectares [and] A 100-metre strip would almost double the area of rainforest we have.”

The Atlantic Woodland Alliance’s report notes that its ambitious project to revitalise and grow Scotland’s rainforest will be dependent upon continuing to demonstrate how “our rainforests can be better managed” and to work with others to raise awareness and change attitudes to one of Scotland’s most rare habitats.

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