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Saving Scotland’s Rainforest

(c) Dave Lamacraft

Until recently, few people even knew that temperate rainforest existed in Scotland, while even fewer appreciated its global significance. Efforts to save the vital habitat were piecemeal, with as little as 30,000 hectares of this native woodland remaining as a result.

That all changed in 2021, when the plight of Scotland’s rainforest was placed firmly on the agenda like never before.

The resurgence was kick-started when Plantlife, together with Woodland Trust Scotland, relaunched the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest (ASR) to unite the efforts of each organisation working to save the habitat and increase the project’s impact. As a result, every partner began sharing clear, consistent and targeted messaging online, at events, during meetings, via social media and in the press, helping to raise awareness of the initiative while starting to build momentum.

(c) Andy Robinson/RSPB/Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforests

Sowing the seeds for recovery

The relaunch sparked an array of new collaborative projects designed to highlight the plight of the temperate rainforest and garner further support:

  • Reports from Plantlife, Woodland Trust Scotland and Scottish Environment LINK highlighted the rainforest’s impact on diverse issues such as nitrogen pollution, invasive non-native species and funding gaps.
  • Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh published a paper to help plan conservation efforts in response to a changing climate.
  • Raleigh International kicked off a project to train budding young environmentalists in the rainforest zone.
  • Scotland the Big Picture launched a ‘rewilding network’ and began recruiting west coast landowners to restore the rainforest.
  • National Trust for Scotland published advice on controlling Rhododendron, which is currently choking 40% of the habitat.
  • Plantlife began chairing a civic mediation initiative to address conflicts in deer management.

In addition, two of the alliance’s landscape-scale projects, run by Argyll Coast and Countryside Trust and RSPB, attracted funding to get them started. And to ensure that the plant species which make Scotland’s rainforest so important internationally were kept firmly at the heart of management decisions, Plantlife recruited to a new post – the Saving Scotland’s Rainforest Lichens and Bryophytes Advisor.

(c) Lorne Gill/NatureScot/Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforests

The impact of our work

This display of strength and unity did not go unnoticed. For the very first time, three of the main political parties made commitments to take positive action on the rainforest in their manifestoes in the run up to the Scottish elections, with government documents later repeating these pledges.

The COP26 international climate conference held in Glasgow brought another opportunity to shine a spotlight on this beleaguered habitat. The environment minister hit the headlines after restating the Scottish Government’s commitment to restore and expand these woodlands, using the rainforest garden at RSPB’s ‘Glasgow to Globe’ exhibit as a backdrop. Further column inches followed when five indigenous leaders who were attending COP26 from the Amazon performed a sacred blessing ceremony at a community woodland in Argyll at the invitation of Plantlife, Raleigh International and Woodland Trust Scotland. Organised in partnership with Jiboiana, which works with indigenous peoples to preserve nature, the ceremony brought local communities, politicians, ASR organisations and young activists together in a show of solidarity for rainforests around the world.


The future

Oak leaf by water (c) Stan Phillips/Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforests

After spending 2021/22 building a firm foundation for action, the focus for the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest will now turn to safeguarding the habitat’s longer-term future.

Together, Plantlife, RSPB and Woodland Trust Scotland have submitted an ambitious proposal to the Scottish Government to create a rainforest restoration fund. If approved, it will be used to drive a series of community restoration projects over the coming decade which, in turn, will play a vital role in safeguarding this globally-significant habitat and the abundance of species which make it their home.

Saving Scotland’s Rainforest has been funded by:

  • Craignish Trust
  • Highlands and Islands Environment Foundation
  • Woodland Trust Scotland
  • Nineveh Trust
  • Hugh Fraser Charitable Foundation
  • Neil and Pauline Pettefa

Image credits: Header image - Dave Lamacraft, image 2 - Andy Robinson/RSPB/Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforests, image 3 - Lorne Gill/NatureScot/Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforests, image 4 - Stan Phillips/Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforests

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Acknowledgements to funders

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