Scotland’s Ancient Atlantic Rainforest Is Under Threat

Think rainforests and most of us tend to imagine a hot, exotic place like the Amazon. But there are temperate rainforests too and they matter just as much, a vital part of the planet’s forest network. It is sad to see tropical rainforests are not the only ones facing very similar difficulties. Scotland, part of the United Kingdom, is right here, at home, but even so we are failing to conserve and preserve its ancient rainforest.

About Scotland’s Atlantic rainforest

Just short of 75,000 acres of west coast Scottish woodland is referred to as the Atlantic Rainforest thanks to the very rare oceanic plants that thrive there. But over-grazing by deer and farm animals plus invasive plant species and diseases are destroying the forest under our noses.

Invasive rhododendron, found in a distressing 40% of rainforest sites, chokes woodlands with its dense knots of branches and evergreen leaves. Ash dieback is affecting northern and western ash woods. And pollution and climate change are damaging every aspect of the forest.

Charities and others collaborate to save the forest

The Atlantic Woodland Alliance is a group of 16 charities and other organisations, and they’re proposing we get rid of newcomers like Sitka spruce and Rhododendron, stripping the damaging invaders out of thousands of acres of rainforest and from nearby newer woodlands. Planting more native trees like oak and birch should help as well. But that does not solve the chronic over-grazing that has long been taking place quietly in the background.

Why Scotland’s rainforest matters

Scotland’s ancient rainforest is even rarer and more precious than tropical rainforest. It is only found on the west coast and inner isles, a fabulous place rich in native oak, birch, ash, pine and hazel. To thrive it needs mild, wet, clean air off Atlantic, and many of the remarkable lichens, fungi, mosses, liverworts and ferns that live there are super-rare. Many of them are unique to the forest.

Taking urgent action

Luckily for the planet, it is not too late to take action. There are many conservators who are keen to ensure the woodlands grow bigger, and want to achieve much better overall health. The Alliance is growing fast, adding more members to an impressive list that already contains names like Forestry and Land Scotland, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority, National Trust for Scotland, Plantlife Scotland and the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh.