Critical restoration project for the Scottish rainforest one step closer

Scotland is home to some of the last remaining sites of irreplaceable West Atlantic oak forests, also known as the Scottish Rainforest, in Europe. This type of temperate rainforest is a breathtaking, rare and globally threatened habitat on the west coast. High rainfall and relatively mild temperatures provide the perfect conditions for some of the rarest bryophytes and lichens in the world. The diversity of these trees, boulders and canyons makes this rainforest internationally important.

Only 30,000 hectares of this rainforest remain in small and fragmented areas, which is only 2% of the Scottish forest area. Despite their isolation, these native forest areas are threatened by ash dieback, nitrogen pollution, invasive rhododendrons, and heavy overgrazing. Some areas have also been planted with non-native conifers.

Saving Morvern’s Rainforest, a £ 4.3 million landscape-scale partnership, aims to protect this rare habitat, create local jobs and promote ecotourism in the area. The project is currently being assessed for £ 2.6 million in EU support and this generous pledged contribution from NatureScot will reduce the funding gap to c. £ 300k. NatureScot’s donation must be approved by the EU grant system.

Redstart, Copyright Glyn Sellors, from the Surfbirds Galleries

This new multi-million pound project is entirely focused on the Morvern Peninsula in the highlands and, if successful, will improve and restore this unique Scottish rainforest. The peninsula’s island-like features mean that it is one of the best defended areas in Scotland, where rhododendrons can be eradicated on a large scale, pastureland managed and forests restored.

The project is focused on green recovery, restoring 850 hectares of native rainforest by removing invasive, non-native rhododendrons and planting an additional 100 hectares of new forest.

The project will create eight jobs and two internships as well as opportunities for volunteering and training. The partnership will work with the local community to set up a tree nursery, school program and rainforest festival.

This is a partnership project made possible through the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest. RSPB Scotland will work with Woodland Trust Scotland, NatureScot, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Forest and Land Scotland, Plantlife Scotland, RBGE, Raleigh International and the Community Woodlands Association, as well as two local private owners, Ardtornish and Laudale.

Anne McCall, Director of RSPB Scotland said: “We thank NatureScot for their promised contribution to this important project. The Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest is at the heart of nature conservation and we are proud to be part of this impressive partnership. The creation of local jobs and internships, as well as the development of a sustainable heritage are crucial aspects of the project that land managers and community partners are involved in to ensure the long-term success of the project. RSPB Scotland is optimistic about what this partnership can achieve. We are currently seeking support to fill the last remaining funding gap. Visit the Alliance for Scotland Rainforest website for more information. “

Francesca Osowska, CEO of NatureScot, said: “We are delighted to pledge £ 250,000 for this ambitious project to restore key areas of the Scottish rainforest on the Morvern Peninsula.

“NatureScot’s mission is to improve nature across Scotland. This project is a great example of that. The Scottish rainforest is of global importance and is home to a unique biodiversity. It is therefore important that we support urgent measures to protect and improve this valuable habitat.

“Not only does this type of investment provide a nature-based solution to climate change by sequestering carbon and helping meet the Scottish Government’s goals for forest creation, but it can also help ensure a green recovery from the pandemic by creating sustainable livelihoods on site.

“As a key member of the Alliance for the Scottish Rainforest, NatureScot will continue to work closely with our partners to bring the Scottish Rainforest back to life.”

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