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Rainforest S.O.S right here in UK as native woods at risk from climate change

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The Mirror’s environment editor Nada Farhoud visits a temperate rainforest in the far north-west of Scotland, a unique and rare habitat reaching a crisis point, in part due to climate change

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We’re deep in the rainforest, a complex eco-system that supports pied flycatchers and redstarts among the rich green mosses and liverworts that thrive in the dampness.

This is not the tropics of Brazil or Borneo, but a temperate rainforest in the far north-west of Scotland.

The rainforests of Britain are even more rare than those in the tropics, but are now reaching a crisis point, in part due to climate change.

Once covering Europe’s Atlantic coastline, from Norway to Spain, this unique habitat provides perfect conditions for species not found anywhere else.

Pockets of rainforest are still found across the UK, such as in Cumbria, north Wales and southwest England, but Scotland is the last stronghold due to the high rainfall and relatively mild, year-round temperatures.

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Nada with Malcolm in the rainforest
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Image:

Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)




The Daily Mirror joined Malcolm Turner from the Woodland Trust Scotland inside the rainforest at the Ben Shieldaig Estate in Wester Ross.

Recent studies revealed that some of the native oak, ash, birch, pine and hazel trees found here on the west coast could be thousands of years old.

But this globally significant area is at risk of disappearing.

The Scottish temperate rainforests, also known as Atlantic or Celtic woodlands, now cover 117 sq miles, just 2% of the nation’s tree cover.



Malcolm is working to save the forest
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Image:

Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)




Less than one-third is in a satisfactory condition.

The Woodland Trust has warned that the UK’s rainforests are nearing crisis point, with Scotland’s at particular risk.

The Trust’s State of the UK’s Woods and Trees 2021 report said the area was “as important as tropical rainforest, but even rarer”.

Native woods and trees help curb carbon emissions and reverse declines in wildlife.



Magical mists over the woodland
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Image:

Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)




And failing to address the problems they face will undermine efforts to tackle the climate and nature crises, the charity warned.

It said the impact of climate change on woodland life cycles, pests, diseases, pollution, and the slow rate of woodland expansion could be a “multiple whammy” for wildlife.

Malcolm explains how the insect-rich habitat at the Ben Shieldaig Estate rainforest attracts migrant birds such as pied flycatchers, wood warblers and redstarts.



A small tree begins to grow
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Image:

Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)




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The rare, chequered skipper butterfly is also only found here.

He explains how the mosses and liverworts – tiny plants that produce spores instead of flowers and seeds – play a hugely important role in the health of our environment.

He says: “Scotland is home to nearly 1,000 different types of these plants which grow on the woodland floor and on tree branches. Some are not found anywhere else in the world.


The Mirror has joined forces with community television channel Together TV to hand out 50,000 packets of free basil seeds to readers.

The seed starter kits are being given away as part of a new Green Challenge to encourage more people to start growing more of their own food.

Along with your packet of basil you will receive tips on how to look after the plants and exclusive recipes using the herb from celebrity chef Rustie Lee.

Bake Off winner and presenter Nadiya Hussain and TV gardener Danny Clarke are also backing the Green Challenge.

Nadiya told the Mirror: “There is so much joy you can get from cooking, it’s good for the soul. The power it has to bring your family, friends, neighbours and community together to connect and share the delicious food you’ve made is the best.”

How to apply for your free seeds:

  • Visit www.TogetherTV.com/GreenChallenge and fill out the online form
  • By SMS: Text “Together” to 80800 for free followed by your full name
  • Sending your full name, post address and phone number via letter to –
    Together TV’s Green Challenge 24 Neal Street
    London WC2H 9QW




“They provide homes to tiny creatures and together they also act as a giant sponge, slowing the flow of rain into burns and rivers, and helping protect against flash floods.”

As well as the threat from climate change, around 40% of the rainforest is suffering high or very high levels of grazing, largely due to deer.

Invasive rhododendron is also found in 40% of rainforest, threatening to choke the woodland.









But the Woodland Trust says “it is not too late to take action”.

Together with Plantlife, the organisation leads The Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest, which hopes to address the threats, as well as working with landowners to restore and expand woodlands.

Abi Bunker, director of conservation and external affairs for the Woodland Trust, says: “The warning signs are loud and clear.







“If we don’t tackle the threats that are facing our woods and trees we will severely damage the UK’s ability to address the climate and nature crises.

“Our wildlife havens are suffering, and we are storing up problems for future generations.”

Where to find our rainforests

Ausewell Woods, Ashburton, Devon

Ben Shieldaig Estate, Strathcarron, Scotland

Bovey Valley Woods, Newton Abbot, Devon

Coed Felenrhyd & Llennyrch, Gwynedd, Wales

Crinan Wood, Argyll, Scotland

Dunollie Wood, Oban, Scotland

Fingle Woods, Dartmouth

National Park, Devon

Loch Arkaig Pine Forest, Lochaber, Scotland,

Uig Wood, Isle of Skye, Scotland


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