Scotland's rainforest is in danger and must be saved – Scotsman comment

Given trees can be unpoetically described as carbon sequestration machines, it is unsurprising that both the Scottish and UK governments have plans to dramatically increase the numbers being planted over the next few years as a way to combat climate change.

Atlantic oak woodland at the Glenborrodale RSPB Nature Reserve on Scotland's west coast (Picture: Colin Wilkinson/RSPB)

However, the shockingly poor state of our native woodland seems to contrast sharply with the good intentions of our politicians.

A new report by the Woodland Trust found that just seven per cent of native forests could be described as being in a good ecological condition, with “one of our most precious habitats” – Scotland’s rainforest – under particular threat.

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Saying this was “as important as tropical rainforest, but even rarer”, the report explained that the “sheer abundance and diversity of species” found there made it internationally important.

However, “surviving remnants are often small and isolated from each other, ‘over-mature’, showing little or no regeneration and impeded by over-grazing and invasive non-native species,” it warned.

Included on a list of the biggest threats was plantation forestry, with dense stands of evergreen conifers potentially creating year-round shade and needle litter that can crowd out any remnants of ancient woodland.

The danger of mass tree-planting targets is that it becomes a tick-box exercise that ignores the reality on the ground.

With the Woodland Trust warning that our native forests are “approaching crisis point”, we need to redouble efforts to save them. And, while we should increase tree planting, we should take care to do so in a way that helps rather than hinders the conservation of these beautiful and naturally poetic places.

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