MEMBERS of the Atlantic Woodland Alliance gathered at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) on 20 May for the launch of a State of Scotland’s Rainforest report outlining the current condition of these rare woodlands.

“Scotland’s rainforest is just as lush and just as important as tropical rainforest, but is even rarer,” said Adam Harrison of Woodland Trust Scotland. “Found along the west coast and on the inner isles, it is a unique habitat of ancient native oak, birch, ash, pine and hazel woodlands and includes open glades and river gorges. Our rainforest is garlanded with a spectacular array of lichens, fungi, mosses and ferns – some found nowhere else in the world.”

Chris Ellis from the RBGE said: “This habitat, once found all along Europe’s Atlantic coast, has dwindled over thousands of years. The west coast of Scotland is one of the last strongholds of Europe’s rainforest.”

The new report reveals though that even here there is as little as 30,325 hectares of rainforest left in Scotland.

The remnant oak, birch, ash, native pine and hazel woodlands are small, fragmented and isolated from each other. They are over-mature and are in danger of being lost forever.

The report also highlights that invasive rhododendron can be found in 40% of rainforest sites, threatening to choke the woodlands and prevent the distinctive rainforest flora from surviving; one in every five sites has been planted up with exotic conifer plantations which lower their value as rainforest habitat; ash dieback threatens the future of our northern- and western-most ash woods; and climate change and air pollution are set to decimate the last refuge for the rare plants that make the rainforest so special to us and the rest of the world.

Gordon Gray Stephens, of the Community Woodlands Association, said: “It’s not too late to take action. Our vision for regenerating Scotland’s rainforest is clear: we need to make it larger, in better condition, and with improved connections between people and woods. Coming together as an Alliance can help to make this happen.”

More partners are sought to join the Alliance with the aim of developing and funding innovative projects to save Scotland’s rainforest.