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Saving Scotland’s Rainforest

The collaborative work of the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest, of which Plantlife is a leading partner, could be finally starting to turn the fortunes around for this internationallyimportant habitat.

A group of people in winter clothes are stood in a forest looking at a tree

The fortunes of Scotland’s temperate rainforest have finally started to improve thanks to the efforts of Plantlife and our partners.  

The Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest (ASR) – a voluntary partnership of 25 organisations – has stepped up its efforts for this internationally-important habitat during the year. Plantlife has continued to play a key role by hosting the project manager and leading advisory work on rainforest management. We are also contributing to communications and advocacy, as well as raising vital funds. 

These collaborative efforts are designed to save a habitat which has been under threat for some time. Important lichens and bryophytes have been choked out by the spread of invasive Rhododendron ponticum, which is a non-native species.

High deer numbers are preventing woodland regeneration, while the tiny fragments of rainforest which remain lack the resilience to cope with climate change and other threats. As a result, only 30,000 hectares of core rainforest now remain. 

The pink flower clusters of the INNS Rhododendron ponticum. Credit: L Death

Achievements during the year

Saving Scotland’s rainforest is no small task. Achieving full ecological restoration will involve a large-scale step-change in the way we work. It will require liaison across landscapes with multiple landowners. At the same time, it will also need to bring benefits for the community so that each project leaves a long-term legacy. All of this comes with an estimated price tag of around £500m – which remains our biggest barrier to success. 

However, the continuing rise in profile of the rainforest has helped to capture the attention of key audiences. The Scottish Government has also re-emphasised its commitment to restore and expand the rainforest and has increased capacity within statutory agencies to deal with both Rhododendron and deer. 3 of the ASR’s 4 landscape-scale projects have also secured funding, with the fourth due to follow shortly.

Two people walking in a pine forest

In addition, education remains a vital element of the project. Our Lichens and Bryophytes Advisor held 15 training workshops on rainforest management for 197 people during the year. To complement these sessions, a set of ASR-endorsed rainforest management standards is now being developed. More than 100 people have also taken part in the Finding the Common Ground project, which aims to help stakeholders work better together to manage deer.

In addition, work has taken place to develop a collaborative project to increase community capacity in the rainforest. This new initiative – which will cost around £5m to deliver – will soon be presented to possible funders for their consideration. 

Over the last year, partners have also started to explore ways to access finance through natural capital. This includes researching methods to convert Rhododendron into biochar to gain a carbon credit, trialling new investment models and building a case for future biodiversity credits.

If just one of these new forms of finance is successful, rainforest restoration efforts could be significantly upscaled. This could place us on the brink of achieving our aim and saving Scotland’s rainforest. 

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