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Moving in the right direction, but our work here is not done.
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.
This week, 29 November 2023 saw a landmark acknowledgement from Westminster of England’s temperate rainforests. As part of a package of measures to put nature at the forefront of climate action ahead of the UN climate COP28, the Government has published a temperate rainforest strategy for England.
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, this announcement is a useful step forward in securing the future of many of these rare species and combating the biodiversity and climate crises.
This announcement follows the hard work of lobbying for temperate rainforest from Guy Shrubsole, from the publication of his book ‘Lost Rainforest of Britain’ to his grassroots movement advocating for the protection and restoration of this precious habitat.
Plantlife has worked with Guy and other partners for many years to understand, restore and celebrate Britain’s rainforest. This new strategy starts to outline a framework for future action and sets out the need for targeted funding to deliver this. It highlights existing initiatives such as Rainforest Lichen Recovery (South-West) project, funded through Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme Capital Grant Scheme and delivered by Plantlife with a range of partners.
It is encouraging to see acknowledgement of the larger threats to temperate rainforest, including invasive Rhododendron ponticum, as the impact of this species is far reaching and strangling rainforests from the inside out.
We’re also pleased to see the commitment to reduce deer densities within rainforest, but caution that reduction does not mean elimination. Deer are a natural part of rainforest habitat and complete removal would not be beneficial but a reduction, as suggested in the strategy, is key.
However, achieving rainforest restoration in England needs a more strategic and detailed approach based on a clear long-term ambition. Many of the commitments outlined this week need to be developed in detail, engaging landowners, local communities, conservation organisations and investors. Public consultation on the strategy is an important next step, along with a framework of monitoring and reporting on progress, using indicators based on species recovery and habitat condition and extent. This would result in a more effective strategy that helps to meet the Government’s own legally binding targets for nature recovery.
Many of the actions set out the strategy already exist; while there is (very welcome) targeting of investment, the scale of ambition needs to move further and faster to match the scale of need in saving and restoring Britain’s rainforest. Other threats must also be recognised and addressed: temperate rainforests cannot truly be put on the path to recovery without concrete action towards reducing the devastating impact of air pollution on England’s native woodlands. Keystone temperate rainforest species like lichen need clean air to thrive and this must be part of any effective rainforest strategy.
We will hold the UK Government accountable and push for the development of this strategy into a more effective and shared plan of action. A longer-term ambition and lasting commitments to practical on the ground action, as well as further strengthening of national strategy, policy, and legislation, will ensure that, together, we can restore and celebrate temperate rainforests for centuries to come.
Hazel Gloves by (C) S Shuttleworth/Plantlife
Pixie Cups lichen (C) S Shuttleworth
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