Come and be part of a global voice for wild plants and fungi
This autumn, help us find the Britain’s most colourful and important fungi – waxcaps.
Plantlife’s Big Give Christmas Challenge 28 Nov- 5 Dec, make a positive impact in protecting remarkable lichens.
Go the extra mile and run wild for Plantlife
Become a Plantlife member today and together we will rebuild a world rich in plants and fungi
Plantlife is working with governments and landowners to protect and restore temperate rainforest along the Atlantic coast of England, Scotland, and Wales.
Characterised by the presence of unique lichens, bryophytes, mosses, and liverworts, rainforest habitats are highly fragmented and face threats from invasive non-native species, such as Rhododendron ponticum, alongside ash dieback, inappropriate grazing, and air pollution.
Temperate rainforests have some of the highest diversity and abundance of wild plants and fungi in Britain, with many sites qualifying as Important Plant Areas.
Protecting and restoring this ecosystem would speed up progress in meeting national and global targets to address the nature and climate emergencies, including the 2030 Global Biodiversity Framework. Investment in rainforest restoration would also build on past and present conservation actions, and help to build a green economy through employment, skills training and tourism.
The future of Britain’s temperate rainforest and its unique species depends on targeted action by the Scottish, UK and Welsh Governments to:
1. Establish national rainforest funds from both public and private sources to support long-term landscape-scale projects and other practical action.
a) The Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest has identified the cost of restoring the temperate rainforest zone in Scotland to be £500 million.
2. Increase protection of remaining rainforest sites and species through national strategy, policy, and legislation.
3. Provide advice and support for land managers to enhance and restore rainforest on their land.
4. Take urgent action to tackle key threats to rainforest including air pollution, invasive non-native species (INNS), and deer management.
a) More than 94% of the UK’s woodland is impacted by excess nitrogen deposited through air pollution and rainfall. Lichens are essential species in temperate rainforests, but they need clean air to thrive. Lichens provide food, shelter, and microhabitats for invertebrates, in addition to carbon cycling and water retention.
b) Invasive non-native species, like Rhododendron ponticum and ash dieback currently have the potential to wipe out much of the species diversity in Britain’s temperate rainforests. Funding projects that address this, in addition to making powers of enforcement more widely known and used where necessary, give rainforests to chance to thrive.
c) Deer are a natural part of thriving temperate rainforest areas; however, at their current population density, particularly within Scotland, their grazing prevents essential tree species from growing and this leads to a decrease in long-term regeneration of woodland areas.
Plantlife is calling on governments to invest in rainforest restoration and take urgent action to tackle the threats to this internationally-important habitat.
A new English government strategy for temperate rainforest has been released, but restoring the rainforest in England requires a more detailed approach that recognises and addresses the threats. To put the rainforest on the path to recovery, concrete action is needed.
Discover how Plantlife is working with governments to protect and restore temperate rainforest along the Atlantic coast of Britain.
Our wild and wet woodlands and the species that live within them are facing severe threats which Plantlife will be tackling through the Species Recovery Project.
Air pollution often poses the biggest danger to internationally rare habitats.
68% of our most sensitive habitats are impacted by excess nitrogen, like the temperate rainforests found along the west coast of Britain.
Full of wonder and mossy goodness these beauties really capture the imagination and lift the spirits of anyone who visits. This unique habitat thrives in areas where there is a high annual rainfall with relatively constant temperatures.
However, temperate rainforests are more than just woodlands; they are a mosaic of trees, open glades, crags, ravines, rocks and gorges. With surfaces absolutely chock full of liches, mosses, liverworts and an array of fungi – they support an important array of wildlife, absorb carbon and slow the flow of floodwaters.
Nitrogen gases in air pollution have the potential to destroy these beautiful places. This pollution can take the form of ammonia emissions from farm manures and fertilisers, or nitrogen oxide emissions from fossil fuels.
Even rainforest areas far from the source of pollution, such as the northwest coast of Scotland, are affected by air pollution as it can travel long distances in the atmosphere.
Trees within the rainforest will temporarily show increased growth from extra nitrogen. However, in the long term any growth will soon stagnate as the earth becomes saturated with excess nitrogen – more than 94% of woodlands are affected by air pollution UK wide.
Higher nitrogen levels mean trees will often suffer from discoloration and increased vulnerability to drought, frost, and disease like acute oak decline.
Woodland fungi are no exception to impacts of air pollution, as many are closely associated with tree roots and health.
Their loss will result in a further decline of tree species, leading to increasing carbon emissions and further contributing to the ongoing climate crisis.
A change in flora is sure to follow an increase in air pollution as tougher nitrogen-tolerant plants, such as nettles and brambles, will outcompete the more sensitive and specialist species within the rainforest. This has a cascading effect on other wildlife which rely on certain wild plants for food, shelter, and reproduction.
Losing species which make up a significant part of the rainforest ground cover, such as mosses and liverworts like Greater Whipwort, reduces the ecosystem’s ability to retain water. This makes the whole area more vulnerable to droughts and floods.
As an essential part of temperate rainforests, lichens require low levels of air pollution to thrive. Lichens provide food, shelter and microhabitats for invertebrates, in addition to contributing to carbon cycling and water retention. Some rare lichen species are only found in rainforest areas and are being pushed to the brink of extinction.
Without lichens, our temperate rainforests would struggle even more to survive. Many are incredibly sensitive to changes in air quality, such as tree lungwort (Lobaria spp) and will quickly be lost to increased levels of nitrogen in the atmosphere.
Tree Lungwort in particular is an amazing indicator species, as its presence signals that the forest is healthy and functioning as it should. This is because it is a slow growing species that is even more sensitive to air pollution than most other lichens.
Tree Lungwort often can become outcompeted and swamped in nitrogen-tolerant algae, knocking the ecosystem out of balance. When we see populations of lungwort recovering, we know that our air quality is improving and with that, the rainforest.
Hope is not lost! For one, you are reading this and arming yourself with information to pass onto your family and friends. When you take action on air pollution, you’re benefiting wildlife as well as people’s health.
You can also support Plantlife’s work to inspire further action to reduce air pollution and tackle its impacts on our natural environment.
Our Global Advocacy Coordinator, Claire Rumsey, will be at COP28 to speak up for the vital role of wild plants and fungi in the fight against climate change.
Discover how you can identify the mosses where you live, and read about Lizzie's challenge to learn 10 mosses!
Ever wondered why we need to go out and count rare plants? Meg Griffiths reflects on a summer of lichen hunting for the Natur am Byth! Project.
Temperate rainforest in south-west England is a globally rare habitat, full of special lichens and mosses which can only be found on Britain’s mild, damp Atlantic coastline.
Both temperate rainforests and the species that live there face severe challenges from climate change, air pollution, tree diseases and changes in management.
Temperate rainforests are one of Britain and Ireland’s most important habitats. Like any rainforest around the world, they are home to a vast diversity of plants, with some species at risk of extinction as this habitat is their only known home. Temperate rainforest in south-west England tends to be less wet and somewhat warmer than its counterparts elsewhere in the UK, and it is therefore important for a number of ‘southern oceanic’ lichen and bryophyte species that are rare or absent elsewhere in the UK and Europe.
In Britain the horsehair lichen Bryoria smithii is only known from two rainforest sites in Devon where its entire population would fit comfortably on two sheets of A4 paper and Arthonia thoriana, an achingly rare comma lichen, is not known from anywhere else in the world other than at Horner Wood in Somerset.
Throughout this project we…
•Carried out essential woodland conservation work that will help to protect some of our most rare and threatened lower plants for the future
•Created opportunities for the public and the people who manage these woods to enrich their knowledge about rainforests and the species they are home to
•Engaged schools, families and members of the public through innovative woodland events and training programmes.
Focusing conservation efforts on what rainforest remains is crucial. Practical conservation on the ground has safeguarded five especially vulnerable rainforest sites across Somerset and Devon by clearing invasive species, letting more light in through the canopy and creating a future generation of veteran trees. In total, 73 hectares of temperate rainforest have been directly managed under the project with a further 162 hectares coming under better management as a result of training land managers across the region. Regionally threatened lichens – including the spectacular and rare Tree Lungwort Lobaria pulmonaria that resembles human lungs – have been successfully translocated from ash trees threatened by Ash Dieback to nearby Hazel, Oak, and Sycamore trees.
Image by Rachel Jones
Tree lungwort, image by Rachel Jones
Plantlife conservationists Alison Smith & Dave Lamacraft at Horner, Exmoor, image by Rachel Jones
Tree Lungwort Lichen, image by Kate Hind
The beneficial impact is not limited to protecting existing rainforests: working alongside Plantlife experts, a team of trained volunteers have surveyed nearly 300 woodlands across the region using Plantlife’s Rapid Rainforest Assessment, improving our understanding on their condition to help inform future management. They have also discovered 15 high quality rainforest locations by finding new records of rainforest indicator species records such as the oceanic liverworts Greater Whipwort Bazzania trilobata and Prickly Featherwort Plagiochila spinulosa.
Over 60 new species records at sites across the counties have been recorded. Lichens living in rainforests in the South West of England include the delightfully named String-of-sausages Usnea articulata, Floury Dog Lichen Peltigera collina, Tattered Jelly-skin Scytinium lichenoides, Mealy-rimmed Shingle Lichen Pannaria conoplea, and Tumbling Kittens Hypotrachyna taylorensis.
Thanks to the National Lottery players, the National Lottery Heritage Fund (HLF) awarded Plantlife £433,700 to protect the south-west rainforests. The legacy of this project included the release of groundbreaking expert management guidance by Plantlife.
The guidelines, the first interactive, online version to be produced by Plantlife to outline how best to look after these temperate woodlands for the benefit of lichens, ferns and bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) are decades in the making and an output of pioneering conservation work.
These pioneering guidelines will safeguard some of our most rare and threatened lichen communities in the temperate rainforest of Devon, Somerset and Cornwall for the future.
Plantlife’s interactive toolkit for woodland managers, provides you with a better understanding of temperate rainforests and a guide to managing the lichens and bryophytes the lichens that grow there.
Dave Lamacraft, Plantlife’s Lichen and Bryophyte Specialist, heads out to discover a wealth of extraordinary lichens which call Wales’ rainforests home.
I’m lucky enough to have worked in our temperate rainforests for well over a decade now, and although much of our recent work here at Plantlife has had a focus on rainforest areas of England, through our LOST project in the Lake District and the Building Resilience project in South-West England, both funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, I’ve had the opportunity to get out into some of our Welsh rainforest in past weeks and been reminded just how special they are.
The first of these visits was to the National Trust’s Dolmelynllyn estate at Ganllwyd to look at some transplants of Lungwort lichens that we undertook 5 years ago. This was initially an attempt to rescue these lichens from an old Ash tree that was literally clothed in Lungwort lichens, of three varieties, that blew down in a summer gale. Transplanting these big leafy species is relatively straightforward to do in practical terms but hard to get right, the skill is in finding the right niche and one that’s away from the chomping teeth of slugs.
Success is far from guaranteed, and the majority of these transplants had succumbed to slug browsing. There were some notable successes though, with this ‘lob scrob’ Lobarina scrobiculata thriving on a Sycamore, all the better as this is one of the rarer lungwort lichens in Wales. The area where this was transplanted has spectacular communities of lichens on old Ash, Oak and Sycamore trees, probably the best display of lungwort lichens in Wales with abundant Tree Lungwort Lobaria pulmonaria, Parchment Lichen Ricasolia amplissima, ‘Stinky Stictas’ Sticta fuliginosa and Sticta sylvatica and Blue Jelly-skin Leptogium cyanescens.
Another site visit took me to a remote woodland near Trawsfynydd where we’re helping Natural Resources Wales work out how best to manage this woodland. Although only a few miles up the road from Ganllwyd this is a very different woodland to Dolmelynllyn being at higher altitude and exposed to higher levels of rainfall this favours different communities of lichen and bryophyte with what could be considered our ‘cloud-forest’ lichens and a rich ‘hyperoceanic’ bryophyte flora including many rare species.
Image by Dave Lamacraft
This has also reminded me just how diverse our rainforest is, in the same that way that no two wetlands, estuaries or mountains are the same, no bit of temperate rainforest is the same. They all differ according to geology, topography, aspect, climate, history, management etc; our temperate rainforest in South-West England is quite different to that in Western Scotland, with Wales somewhere in between. They are especially influenced by ‘oceanicity’ – the degree to which proximity to the Atlantic influences climate – and broadly speaking they are drier and sunnier to the south and much wetter to the north.
This basically means that you’ll never see the same things twice and there’s a lifetime of exploration to be had. I’d urge anyone to grab a hand lens (by no means essential, but definitely helps appreciate the small things) and head out to explore.
Agricultural grasslands dominate Wales’ rural landscape. Finding ways to restore species-rich habitats to farms is a priority for Plantlife Cymru.
Chris Jones, the Warden of Kenfig National Nature Reserve, recently found the very rare fungus, during a routine survey.
Every day, our wild plants and fungi are put at risk from planning decisions, chemical sprays and more. Find out what you can do to help protect nature.
Discover 4 new walk ideas and Scottish spring adventure inspiration from Plantlife Scotland’s Communications and Policy Officer, Erin Shott.
Look, the seasons, they are a-changing and I don’t know about you, but I am so looking forward to that sweet, sweet spring time weather. After the cold winter days and long winter nights, I am so ready to get out there and breathe in the freshness of spring.
I would highly recommend taking a visit to one of Scotland’s rainforests if you have the opportunity. The high rainfall, and mild temperatures result in lush mossy areas just bursting with lichens and bryophytes it really does feel like I’ve stepped into a fairy tale. And if that doesn’t attract your attention then you’ll be impressed with the sheer abundance, diversity, and rarity of the species of Scotland’s rainforest.
It won’t be my first visit to the temperate rainforest; however, I’ve visited Glen Nant in the past. Plantlife has a downloadable handy wild plant walk leaflet for the Glen Nant Important Plant Area (IPA), so it was a solid motivation for a visit for me.
But I hear you ask, what if I don’t want to visit a rainforest site? Looking for something short and located in the central belt?
Then download and check out North Berwick Law, our guide is for a nice 1 mile hike up one iconic hill in East Lothian. Plenty of opportunity to spot wild plants too, like Meadow Saxifrage Saxifraga granulata, this snow-white species is found in dry grasslands, or the hilariously named Cuckooflower Cardamine pratensis, due to its delicate purple flowers starting to bloom just as the cuckoo first begins its call.
If you’re the Munro bagging type, then check out the Ben Nevis IPA, a delightful 10-mile hike that is absolutely rich in Bog Asphodel Narthecium ossifragum a plant once used for its potential as a natural dye or the delightfully carnivorous Round-leaved Sundew Drosera rotundifolia (image by Michael Scott) which have long red-coloured stalks that are often seen with globules of ‘dew’ hanging from them. These globules are a polysaccharide solution to trap and digest their prey.
If you’re keen to spend a day out in the Cairngorms, take some time to discover Anagach woods IPA. Download your a free guide here. Soak in the wonders of the Caledonian pinewoods, maybe you’ll spot the rare and iconic Twinflower Linnaea borealis? This special plant is a focal point for our Cairngorms Rare Plants Project. You might also find some Wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella, with its clover-shaped leaves (that taste like apples), this springtime bloomer has delicate white flowers with lilac coloured veins.
A project led by the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest to protect and restore this globally important habitat
From Cape Wrath to Argyll, the West Coast of Scotland Important Plant Area (IPA) contains most of Scotland’s temperate rainforests. It is here that Plantlife is engaging landowners and West Coast communities to restore and protect rainforest.
Temperate rainforest is a rare habitat worldwide- rarer than even tropical rainforests! The special ‘oceanic’ climate where temperate rainforests are found is very wet and wild. This is due to landscape and warm ocean currents. There are remaining pockets of rainforest along the west coast of Europe, but Scotland has some of the best sites. This is because of its very wet climate, unpolluted air, and ancient woodlands.
The high rainfall and mild temperatures make woodlands humid, making it home to some of the rarest bryophytes and lichens. It is their diversity on the trees, boulders and ravines within the woodland that make Scotland’s rainforest so unique. Not only do they help maintain the humidity in the forest, but they also give it mysterious and magical feel.
But while rainforest is one of Scotland’s most important habitats, it’s in trouble. Over the centuries the rainforest has been cleared to leave sites that are small, fragmented and isolated from each other. Almost all shows little or no regrowth due to planting over with exotic conifer, improper grazing, or being choked with Rhododendron ponticum (a non-native species). Add in the threat of ash die back, nitrogen pollution, infrastructure development, and climate change, there is great risk of losing this globally important habitat.
River Nevis – Scotland
Granny Pine in Ben Nevis
Pinewood in Ben Nevis
A lichen is a composite organism made up of a fungus and a photosynthetic partner– usually an alga and sometimes a cyanobacterium (or both!). There are also yeasts and bacteria involved in the relationship.
Mosses and liverworts are ancient non-flowering plants, having been around for 400 million years. Mosses have small leaves that grow all round their stems. Liverworts may lack leaves and stems entirely or have two ranks of leaves either side of a stem.
Our Saving Scotland’s Rainforest project is working closely with the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest (ASR). A voluntary partnership of organisations which all have an interest in the conservation and sustainable development of Scotland’s rainforest.
Plantlife is also working with partners to create large-scale projects that protect and restore temperate rainforests. We are developing new ways to encourage and enable land managers to restore and expand the rainforest through the sharing of ideas, information, knowledge, and expertise.
In the small space of three years the Scottish Government has committed to protecting this unique habitat. We aim to hold them to it.
The future of Scotland’s temperate rainforests is bright and Plantlife is excited to be part of that future.
Images on this page belongs to The Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest.
You might have recently discovered that Britain is home to one of the rarest habitats in the world – the temperate rainforest. Characterised by ancient trees, hosting a rich diversity of important small-but-mighty plants, and of course drenched in our infamous British rain! But how would you know if you were walking among one of these mysterious woodlands?
Alison from Plantlife’s Building Resilience project visits a temperate rainforest in Dartmoor, dripping with lichens, mosses and liverworts, and a richness in diversity rivalling the cloud forest of the Andes. Watch our video to see what she finds, and discover why we need to take action to protect this precious fragment of our ancient woodlands for the future.
Take a look at the guides below and see how many rainforest indicators you can spot – maybe a huge long-lived Oak tree smothered in colourful lichens, or a meandering river carving it’s way though the woodlands.
The Lake District, south west England, western Scotland and Wales are all home to ‘temperate’ rainforest. Have a look around the wood you are in using this guide. The more ticks you collect in the white boxes, the more likely it is that your wood is a rainforest.
Clean Air Day on June 15 is a chance to look at the impact of air pollution, not just on our physical and mental health, but the overall health of our natural environment and wildlife.
We will keep you updated by email about our work, news, campaigning, appeals and ways to get involved. We will never share your details and you can opt out at any time. Read our Privacy Notice.