Dreams of recovery for Scotland's rainforest given a boost

01 August 2022

NatureScot-RSPB joint news release

RSPB Scotland takes on stewardship of Glencripesdale nature reserve as part of landscape wide plan to protect, restore and connect Scotland’s remaining rainforest

RSPB Scotland is “excited” to be taking over responsibility for looking after Glencripesdale, a former National Nature Reserve, located on the tip of the Morvern Peninsula on the south shore of Loch Sunart following the sale of the site by NatureScot.

The wildlife conservation charity says it is looking forward to working with the local community and local landowners to restore the woodland as part of wider plans to restore rainforest across the Morvern peninsula that will bring benefits to rare species, climate and local jobs.  

Scotland’s rainforests are far less well known than their tropical counterparts. However, they are just as special in terms of biodiversity and even rarer with just 1% of the planet having suitable conditions for the habitat.

In good condition, one hectare of temperate rainforest can contain as many as 200 species of lichen and 200 species of mosses and liverworts. They also support a wide variety of insects and birds including some specialists such as wood warbler that are mostly found in this type of woodland.

Much of Scotland’s rainforest has been lost and the remnants are highly fragmented and often in need of restoration due to impacts from invasive species such as Rhododendron ponticum and pressure from too many deer. Deer eat young seedlings and can prevent natural regeneration. Tackling these challenges can be particularly hard in remote areas.

Through the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest, RSPB Scotland and other organisations have shared aims to promote, restore, and connect Scotland’s rainforests. RSPB Scotland say that the Glencripesdale nature reserve is a significant piece of the fragmented jigsaw and will play an important role in their ambitions to work at a landscape scale to address common challenges facing these woodlands.

In addition to these challenges, Glencripesdale was historically a commercial woodland meaning that many non-commercial species are now missing or their presence much reduced. RSPB Scotland will be looking at planting or encouraging regeneration of trees and shrubs such as aspen and holly to restore the natural diversity as well as expanding the woodland back to its natural limits.  

Dave Beaumont, RSPB Scotland’s Operations Director for South Scotland, said: “We are excited to bring Glencripesdale under RSPB Scotland ownership and to tackle some of the issues facing this special woodland. We will need to remove invasive non-native species such as rhododendron along with Sitka spruce and reduce the impact of deer on tree regeneration. We do not underestimate the challenge that this will be in such a remote area. We are grateful for the support of local people and the Sunart and Morvern Community Councils and are looking forward to working with them and local contractors to manage this important woodland and help to restore its former extent and value for wildlife. We hope this will kick start a much bigger restoration project across the whole of Morvern helping to restore Scotland’s rainforest on a landscape scale.”

Chris Donald, NatureScot’s Head of Operations for Central Highland, said: “Scotland’s ancient woodlands are small, fragmented and failing to thrive. Selling our land at Glencripesdale to RSPB Scotland is an exceptional opportunity for NatureScot to support a major landscape-scale restoration project, as we work ambitiously with partners across all sectors to reverse the biodiversity crisis and protect 30% of Scotland's nature by 2030.

“As we strive for a future of nature networks across Scotland, this internationally important western oak woodland, prized by RSPB Scotland as a site for the Saving Morven’s Rainforest restoration project and the wider Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest, offers an example of what is possible through evidence-based management of our natural sites.

“With community involvement at the centre of the RSPB Scotland’s aims for the site, their strong track record in managing land for ecological recovery and enhancement has the potential to bring in significant additional resources for the reserve’s long-term future.”

Glencripesdale nature reserve is a remote place with no public road to the reserve and a 4 mile walk or cycle to the nearest carpark. Visitors wishing to experience Scotland’s rainforest more easily are encouraged to visit other woodlands in the area including RSPB Scotland Glenborrodale nature reserve which has a small carpark, a rugged nature trail and summer guided walks.

Find out more about RSPB Scotland’s landscape-scale project “Saving Morvern’s Rainforest” and the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest.