What makes Scotland's rainforest special?

Scotland’s rainforest is made up of the native woodlands found on Scotland’s west coast where consistent levels of rainfall and relatively mild, year-round temperatures provide just the right conditions for some of the world’s rarest mosses, liverworts and lichens.

It’s the diversity of these mosses and lichens, which are found in vast quantities on trees, boulders, in ravines and on the ground, that make Scotland’s rainforest internationally important. We have some of the best remaining rainforest sites in Europe.

Trees woods and wildlife

Temperate rainforest

Also known as Atlantic or Celtic rainforest, this special habitat is incredibly rare. Its lush conditions are perfect for scarce plants, lichens and fungi, as well as a number of unusual animals.

Learn more about the UK's rainforest

Visit Scotland's rainforest

We care for a number of important rainforests on Scotland's west coast, all free for everyone to explore and enjoy.

Why is restoring Scotland's rainforest so important?

Expanding and restoring Scotland’s rainforest locks up carbon and provides more habitat for biodiversity. It’s a nature-based solution to the climate and nature crises that should be prioritised by Government. It also creates and develops land-based jobs and skills, supports the rural economy and can play a key role in Scotland’s green recovery from the 2020 pandemic too.

Only 30,000ha

of rainforest habitat remains in Scotland

That’s an area a wee bit bigger than the city of Edinburgh.

Did you know?

More than 40% of key rainforest sites in Scotland are so heavily grazed (mainly by deer) that they are unlikely to regenerate themselves.

Scotland's rainforest is under threat

Only 30,000 hectares of rainforest habitat remains in Scotland, mostly in small, isolated woodlands. Most are smaller than 25 hectares – and not large enough to be self-sustaining.

Almost all show little or no regeneration due to high levels of grazing; half the area is infested with the invasive, non-native species Rhododendron ponticum; and one fifth have been planted with exotic conifer plantations. They also face threats from:

The result is the remnant oak, birch, ash, native pine and hazel woodlands that cling on in Scotland are small, fragmented and isolated from each other. They offer small reservoirs for wildlife and are less resilient to change.

If we don’t start taking serious and urgent action to support Scotland’s rainforest, we face the risk of losing this globally-important habitat completely.

The Alliance for Scotland's Rainforest

Rainforest. The name conjures images of tangled jungle far from home. And yet, Europe has rainforest.

Temperate rainforest, once occurring along much of the continent's Atlantic coastline now survives in fragments in just a few isolated pockets. And it is in Scotland we find its largest remaining stronghold.

From hazel to oak, from birch to pine, Scotland's rainforest is a unique mosaic of woodland, glades, boulders, crags and river gorges.

High levels of rainfall and relatively mild year round temperatures provide just the right conditions for some of the world's rarest lichens, mosses, liverworts, fungi and ferns.

Scotland's rainforest is a special, precious place but it's in trouble and for local communities its demise is devastating.

"Well rhododendron is incredibly invasive. There's no question about it - the rainforests are seriously threatened by it. Really the only control that we have on them is us if we kill them, otherwise they just continue to invade."

"Deer are a natural part of the the woodland ecosystem - they're woodland animals and they perform a valuable function here but if we have them in too high densities they are browsing off more tree seedlings and saplings than can naturally replace themselves."

"It's been an important part of community life for such a long time and it's really part of our culture and our heritage. It's used for ecotourism, it's used for people's health and well-being, it's a very special part of our lives."

"The general naturalist is just blown away by the sheer variety of life here and it's something they won't get the opportunity to see elsewhere. The more rainforest that there is then the more opportunities for wildlife and wildlife-watching businesses."

"The woods here are really very valuable to to all the farms who are lucky enough to have them. It's not just a special place on its scientific merits, it's also a place that I use for the benefit of the farm. It would be a tragedy to to lose these these woodlands - they're just super special."

Only 30,000 hectares of Scotland's rainforest remains - a mere two percent of Scotland's woodland cover. Choked by rhododendron, unable to regenerate due to grazing pressure, crowded by exotic conifer plantations and exposed to ash dieback and nitrogen pollution, we face the very real risk of losing this globally important habitat completely and the longer we wait the harder it will become.

The Alliance for Scotland's Rainforest is a partnership of organizations with a shared vision to see the precious forest thrive once again, but we can't do this alone.

We need the support of funders and policy makers to save this valuable habitat which locks in carbon, provides local livelihoods and supports communities.

If we work together we can protect and restore it, but we must act now for the sake of Scotland's rainforest and all that depend on it.

The Woodland Trust has been instrumental in setting up the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest - a voluntary partnership of more than 20 organisations with a shared interest in the conservation and sustainable development of rainforest habitat. Our shared vision is that Scotland’s rainforest will thrive once again, but we need to work together at scale and across landscapes to make an impact.

In May 2019 the Alliance launched the State of Scotland’s Rainforest report which set out the case for restoring this precious habitat. It has since created a strategy that aims to secure funding for landscape-scale partner projects, change government policy to support rainforest conservation, and raise awareness of this special habitat.

Did you know?

Because so many of Scotland’s ancient woodland sites have been planted with exotic conifers, non-native Sitka spruce is now the second most common species in the rainforest.

What we're doing

The Woodland Trust is investing significant resources in the expansion and protection of Scotland’s rainforest.

On our estate

We manage a chain of five woodlands on the west coast, all of which have unique rainforest characteristics:

Whilst each site is being managed to conserve this rare habitat, the native pinewoods of Ben Shieldaig and Loch Arkaig are especially significant – native pinewoods make up only 3% of woodland found in Scotland’s rainforest.

With landowners

We work with a range of landowners to expand and restore native woodland across the west coast. We support small woodland creation schemes through MOREwoods, as well as bringing together landowners and their neighbours to connect rainforest remnants at scale across landscapes, such as in Torridon, Argyll, Morvern and Bute.

As part of our Croft Woodlands project we offer free advice to crofters and smallholders across the Highlands, Argyll and the Western Isles on how to manage woodland, plant trees and secure grants. We have already helped bring over 1,000ha of woodland into sustainable management as part of this programme.

With policymakers

We’re working to get more policy support and resource allocation for the restoration and expansion of the rainforest. The key policy issues that need to be addressed in order for the rainforest to thrive are herbivore overgrazing and Rhododendron ponticum infestation. Policy action in these important areas sits with Government and together with environmental NGO partners we’re lobbying for change.

As part of the Alliance

Together with Plantlife Scotland, the Woodland Trust is a key supporter of the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest. Our contribution pays the salary of a project manager and the Trust’s own staff lead on project fundraising, advocacy and communications.

Your support matters

Thank you to players of People’s Postcode Lottery for their support of our work across Scotland’s rainforest zone and to the individuals, Trusts and partners who have supported specific projects.

We need your ongoing support to continue this vital work. If you would like to support our rainforest conservation activity please contact jenniferbennett@woodlandtrust.org.uk.

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