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A lush, mossy rainforest scene with dense tree cover. We've beaten our in-house rainforest restoration target for 2023-24 by 141% thanks to an extraordinary effort by our teams. 

This is only possible thanks to the dedication of our colleagues across the country who have worked incredibly hard to make it happen. 

Scotland's rainforest is rich in biodiversity, including a unique selection of oceanic bryophytes (bryophyte is the collective term often used for mosses, liverworts and hornworts) and lichens. Restoring this precious habitat on Scotland’s national forests and land is one important way that we're working to fight the global decline in biodiversity.  

But it's a big job. That's why we're so pleased that our teams have managed to exceed their targets.

Work to help save Scotland’s rare temperate rainforests includes:

  • removing Rhododendron ponticum to give other plants space to grow
  • managing deer populations to stop them eating plants and young trees  
  • restoring plantations on ancient woodland sites by returning native species

As well as treating Rhododendron ponticum across 930 hectares, rather than the target 658 hectares, staff also beat their deer management target by 13%. 

Our Environment Manager Colin Edwards said:

In what is a never-ending task it’s good to get a glimpse every now and then of light at the end of the tunnel.

A dark, mossy trunk with a fern growing out from it.
Plantation on ancient woodland sites (PAWS)
In the past, some areas of native woodland were felled and re-planted with conifers for timber production. The goal of the PAWS project is to return these forests back to native woodland. Our focus now is on making long lasting woods suitable for many species to live in. 

The Rainforest zone includes about 18,000 hectares of ancient woodland sites that we manage. Of this area, around 13,000 hectares are PAWS. These were once ancient native woodlands, planted over with commercial tree species in the 20th century. 

We've been doubling-up and restoring these sites in line with our rainforest work. They also contain rich biodiversity and need carefully looked after to keep and develop the remnants that survive within them.

Colin commented: 

As we remove the conifers and protect the site, native trees and plants can return and the habitat can be restored back to natural biodiverse habitat. In the rainforest zone this effort means we are getting two bites at the cherry and ‘doubling-up’ to also restore these sites back to rainforest.

Commercial plantations have been felled from around 17,000 hectares of PAWS on land we manage. Restoration is a long-term business and the maintenance of these felled sites is important. Last year, within the rainforest zone, we safeguarded 250 hectares and helped this area to progress towards thriving rainforest habitat.

How big is a hectare?
Our land is often measured in hectares (ha). But how big actually is a hectare? 1 ha equals 10,000 square metres. That’s a square with sides 100m long. To put that in perspective, the football pitch at Wembley is 7,140 square metres. So 10 pitches are around the same as 7 ha.

A dense wooded area with lots of trees and fragmented light breaking through the canopy. We manage a third of the 30,325 hectare area of Scotland’s ‘core’ rainforest. Over the last decade, we've dealt with Rhododendron ponticum across approximately 11,000 hectares in the rainforest zone. 

We're a key partner in the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforests and work with other land managers to carry out the landscape-scale rainforest projects that are needed to make restoration a lasting success.  

Our key restoration sites include:  

Cowal
We have new restoration projects here and are looking into untouched areas that offer good quality potential for rainforest species. 
East Loch Lomond
There is ongoing PAWS restoration here. Over 30 years, we have – across 1,140 hectares of forest – shifted the balance from one third native to two thirds native. Lichens and bryophytes have already begun to recolonise.  
Knapdale
PAWS restoration here saw conifers removed from the site in the 1990s. There is now a fully functioning rainforest habitat. We're currently working with Woodland Trust Scotland on creating a rainforest corridor along Crinan canal and linking to the Taynish National Nature Reserve managed by NatureScot. 
Balmacara
Under restoration since 2009. Dense Sitka spruce seedling regeneration here has been removed from rich rainforest fragments and veteran oak and birch trees safeguarded among a thriving and rejuvenated native woodland.   
North Sannox (NE corner of Arran)
Under restoration since 2010 with targeted halo-thinning (cutting down surrounding trees in a ring to increase light and space to grow) of oaks and hazel, to free their canopy from competition from mature conifers. 

As well as helping to achieve net zero by absorbing CO2, rainforest restoration also provides opportunities for green skills and rural development.   

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The rainforest zone includes plantations on ancient woodland sites. We've been doubling-up and restoring these sites in line with our rainforest work.