RSPB Scotland thanks NatureScot for offering £250,000 towards an important conservation project on the Morvern peninsula
Scotland holds some of the last remaining sites of irreplaceable Western Atlantic Oak Woodland, also known as Scottish Rainforest, in Europe. This type of temperate rainforest is a stunning, rare and globally threatened habitat found on the west coast. High levels of rainfall and relatively mild temperatures provide the perfect conditions for some of the world’s rarest bryophytes and lichens. The diversity of these on the trees, boulders and within ravines make this rainforest internationally important.
Only 30,000 hectares of this rainforest remain, in small and fragmented areas, representing just 2% of Scotland’s woodland cover. Despite their isolation, these pockets of native woodland are under threat from ash die-back, nitrogen pollution, invasive Rhododendron and severe overgrazing. Some areas have also been planted with non-native conifers.
‘Saving Morvern’s Rainforest’, a £4.3 million landscape-scale partnership project, aims to protect this rare habitat, create local jobs, and boost ecotourism to the area. The project is currently being assessed for £2.6 million of support from the EU, and this generous pledged contribution from NatureScot reduces the funding gap to c. £300k. The donation from NatureScot is subject to approval from the EU grant scheme.
Focussing exclusively on the Morvern peninsula in the Highlands, this new multi-million-pound project, if successful, will enhance and restore this unique Scottish rainforest. The island like features of the peninsula means it is one of the most defensible areas in Scotland for large-scale rhododendron eradication, management of grazing and forest restoration.
The project will focus on green recovery, restoring 850 hectares of native rainforest through the removal of invasive, non-native rhododendron, and will also plant an additional 100 hectares of new woodland.
The project will create eight jobs, and two traineeships, as well as providing volunteering and skills training opportunities. The partnership will work with the local community, establish a tree nursery, a schools programme and a Rainforest festival.
This is a partnership project, made possible via the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest. RSPB Scotland will collaborate with Woodland Trust Scotland, NatureScot, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Forest and Land Scotland, Plantlife Scotland, RBGE, Raleigh International and the Community Woodlands Association, as well as two local private Estates, Ardtornish and Laudale.
Anne McCall, Director of RSPB Scotland, said: “We are grateful to NatureScot for their pledged contribution to this important project. The Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest has conservation at its heart, and we are proud to be a part of this impressive partnership. The creation of local jobs and traineeships, and the development of a sustainable legacy are crucial aspects of the project, involving land managers and community partners to ensure the success of the project in the long term. RSPB Scotland is optimistic about what this partnership can achieve. We are currently seeking support to bridge the last remaining funding gap; more information can be found on the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest website.”
NatureScot Chief Executive Francesca Osowska said: “We’re pleased to pledge £250,000 towards this ambitious project to restore key areas of Scotland’s rainforest on the Morvern peninsula.
“NatureScot’s role is to improve nature across Scotland; this project is an excellent example of doing just that. Scotland’s rainforest is of global importance and home to a unique range of species, so it’s vital that we support urgent action to protect and enhance this precious habitat.
“This kind of investment not only offers a nature-based solution to climate change by locking up carbon and helping to meet Scottish Government objectives for woodland creation, but can also help ensure a green recovery from the pandemic by creating sustainable local livelihoods.
“As a key member of the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest, NatureScot will continue to work closely with our partners to help Scotland’s rainforest thrive once again.”