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Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) is using drones to help map the best areas to focus rhododendron removal efforts in a bid to give breathing room to Scotland’s rainforests.

FLS has been working for over 25 years to turn back the relentless tide of invasive rhododendron that is smothering much of the west coast and threatening unique rainforest habitat.

Rhododendron ponticum is an aggressively-spreading INNS that can overpower any woodland and kill off the ground covering plants that serve as the base-layer for habitats.

Colin Edwards, FLS’ National Environment Manager, said;

“We’ve made steady progress in a lot of areas but the two most effective advances in recent years have undoubtedly been that advent of drones and a greater degree of cooperation and improved partnership working.

“The aerial view that drones give us are incredibly valuable in helping us to assess the extent of the rhododendron issue at any given site and helping us to prioritise, plan and execute our treatment operations to make them as effective as possible.

“That unparalleled mapping ability has given us a better picture of what we’re dealing with and has also helped to galvanise opinion amongst our neighbours and partners  that concerted action needs to be taken.

“Cooperation between land managers works, as can be seen in Glen Creran, which thanks to a four-year community project led by the Argyll and the Isles Coast and Countryside Trust, is now free of rhododendron.

“That’s why projects like Saving Scotland’s Rainforests, led by the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforests, are really important for dealing with the rhododendron that, next to browsing damage from deer, is probably the biggest issue facing our rainforests.”

The Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest is a voluntary partnership of more than 25 organisations - with support from Plantlife Scotland and Woodland Trust Scotland – that is committed to collaborative action for the benefit of Scotland’s rainforest.

Rhododendron removal work across Cowal, The Trossachs and in West Argyll has given FLS valuable, hard-won experience that is now informing its approach to tackling this INNS. 

Over the last decade, FLS has treated invasive rhododendron within approximately 11,000 hectares in the rainforest zone, requiring an investment of some £13.5 Million. With around 8,000 hectares already treated and now only requiring follow-up treatment, work still needs to be done on around 2,500 hectares within these priority areas.

The old ‘cut and burn’ technique has been superseded by newer, more effective stem-injection techniques that halve the time required to treat an area and, with a 90-100% success rate, significantly reduced the need for re-treatments.

Colin added;

"Our approach to rhododendron control in the Rainforest zone is to work at scale and at pace in key priority areas and with as many willing partners and adjacent landowners to tackle this weed and prevent re-seeding into our cleared sites.

“Modern approaches to survey and control activity are vital to enable control efforts to be successful."   

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, Media Manager, Forestry and Land Scotland Media Office 07785 527590 or

  4. Saving Scotland’s Rainforest is a project led by the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest to protect and restore this globally important habitat. It is supported by Plantlife Scotland and Woodland Trust Scotland. (Alliance partners include Argyll and the Isles Coast and Countryside Trust, Botanical Society of Scotland, British Bryological Society, British Lichen Society, Buglife Scotland, Butterfly Conservation Scotland, Community Woodlands Association, Forestry and Land Scotland, Future Woodlands Scotland, John Muir Trust, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority, National Trust for Scotland, Native Woods Co-op, NatureScot, Plantlife Scotland, Reforesting Scotland, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Forestry Society, RSPB Scotland, Scotland:The Big Picture, Scottish Land and Estates, Scottish Wildlife Trust, SRUC, Trees for Life and Woodland Trust Scotland.)