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Scotland’s rainforest

Scotland’s rainforest is a rare and endangered habitat. It’s as important as tropical rainforest, but even rarer. The conditions to support this coastal temperate rainforest occur on less than 1% of the globe’s surface.

Scotland’s rainforest, also known as Atlantic woodland and Celtic rainforest, is a special kind of woodland, containing trees dripping with lichens and rocks clad with abundant mosses. These native woodlands are found on our west coast where there are high levels of rainfall and relatively mild, year-round temperatures. There are some wonderful examples of this unique habitat thriving at Balmacara.

The Coille Mhòr (Big Wood) above Balmacara Square is one example of these diverse ancient woodlands. The mosaic of habitats has been influenced by generations of crofters as they grazed their animals in the woods. These predominantly oak and birch woodlands have a magical feel, with thick carpets of mosses, colourful fungi and glorious ferns.

The Coille Mhòr is both an SAC (Special Area of Conservation) and a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) for its oakwoods and the internationally important rare lichens it contains. These lichens include the interestingly named Norwegian specklebelly (Pseudocyphellaria norvegica) and abundant old man’s beard (Usnea sp.), which is an indicator of good air quality. Coille Mhòr is easily accessed from Balmacara Square – the Plantlife wild flower walks leaflet has a fantastic guide to some of the interesting plants you can see there.

But Scotland’s rainforest is in trouble. As little as 30,000 hectares remain – a mere 2% of Scotland’s woodland cover and only one fifth of the area that has climatic conditions suitable for rainforest.

The National Trust for Scotland is a member of the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest, a voluntary partnership of 20 organisations with a shared interest in ‘Saving Scotland’s Rainforest’. The group’s vision is to see Scotland’s rainforest thrive once again. In May 2019 the Alliance launched ‘The State of Scotland’s Rainforest’ – a report that clearly outlines the danger this habitat is in and what we need to do to save it.

Find out more from the Saving Scotland’s Rainforest website or download the State of Scotland’s Rainforest report.