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An extraordinary effort by Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) staff has seen the organisation exceed its in-house rainforest restoration target for ‘23/’24 by 141 per cent.  

Work to help save Scotland’s Temperate Rainforests involves several tasks including rhododendron removal (to give other plant space to grow), restoring Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (returning native species and ecological functions) and deer management (to prevent browsing damage to young trees and ground vegetation).  

As well as treating rhododendron across 930ha, rather than the target area of 658ha, FLS teams also managed a 13% increase in the deer cull.  

Restoring this habitat on Scotland’s National Forests and Land makes an essential contribution to reversing the decline in global biodiversity.  

The Rainforest zone also includes Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS) - once ancient native woodlands that were planted over with commercial tree species in the 20th century. FLS has been ‘doubling-up’ and restoring these sites in tandem with its rainforest work. 

Colin Edwards, FLS’ Environment Manager, said;  

“This habitat is home to a rich biodiversity, including a unique selection of oceanic bryophytes and lichens.  

“Protecting this environment involves rhododendron removal work and deer management, both of which have been our priorities for over a decade. However, there is still a huge area to cover and a lot of work to do, so being able to over-reach our target by a considerable margin is a real boost.  

“It’s a sign of the level of commitment of our teams around the country, and a measure of how much they care about their work, that our staff have managed to deliver this amazing result.  

“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.”  

FLS manages a third of the 30,325 ha area of Scotland’s ‘core’ rainforest and has, over the last decade, dealt with rhododendron across approximately 11,000 hectares in the rainforest zone. Around 8,000 hectares have been priority areas managed by FLS.  

FLS is a key partner in the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforests (ASR) and collaborates with other land managers to co-ordinate the landscape-scale rainforest projects that are required to make restoration a lasting success.  

Key restoration sites include:  

  • Cowal – new restoration projects and scoping untouched areas that offer good quality potential for Rainforest species. 
  • East Loch Lomondongoing PAWS restoration. Over 30 years, FLS has – across 1140 ha of forest – shifted the balance from 1/3rd native to 2/3rds native. Lichens and bryophytes have already begun to recolonise.  
  • Knapdale – PAWS restoration that saw conifers removed from the site in the 1990’s and where there is now a fully functioning rainforest habitat. (Now 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, with dense Sitka seedling regeneration removed from rich rainforest fragments and veteran oak and birch safeguarded among a thriving and rejuvenated native woodland.   
  • North Sannox (NE corner of Arran) – under restoration since 2010 with targeted halo-thinning of oaks and hazel, to free their canopy from competition from mature conifers, felled across the site in 2016. 

Mr Edwards added; 

“The Rainforest zone includes about 18,000ha of FLS managed Ancient Woodland Sites. Of this area, around 13,000 are Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites, which were once ancient native woodlands, planted over with commercial tree species in the 20th century. 

“Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites also contain rich biodiversity and need careful management to retain and develop the remnants that survive within them. 

“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.

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

“It’s another big, long-term task, which is why it is vital that we continue to make best use of our resources.” 

As well as helping to achieve net zero by potentially sequestering an estimated 1MTCO2e/yr of carbon, rainforest restoration also helps meet the ambitions of the new Scottish Biodiversity Strategy and provides opportunities for green skills and rural development.  


Notes to editors

  1. Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) manages forests and land owned by Scottish Ministers in a way that supports and enables economically sustainable forestry; conserves and enhances the environment; delivers benefits for people and nature; and supports Scottish Ministers in their stewardship of Scotland's national forests and land.

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  3. Media enquiries to Paul Munro, Senior Media Manager, Forestry and Land Scotland Media Office 07785 527590 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.