SCHOOLCHILDREN and volunteers have have helped launch a campaign calling for the expansion and creation of Scotland’s rainforests.

At the Gleann Shìldeag Estate between Torridon and Lochcarron, the aim is to create brand new areas of rare and threatened rainforest.

Ben Shìldeag currently hosts a pine rainforest on one flank with a birch rainforest on another, covering a total area of 100 hectares (the equivalent of 100 Murrayfield rugby pitches).

Woodland Trust Scotland hopes to create over 345 hectares of new native woods over the next five years – with the aim that plants which make up the rainforest habitat will move in over many decades.

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To aid the drive, the organisation has hosted planting parties and a community planting day with more than some 150 pupils from local schools to plant trees at the site.

Schools involved include Lochcarron Primary, Applecross Primary, Plockton Primary, Shieldaig Primary, Gairloch High, and Plockton High.

The community planting day on Saturday was also attended Ariane Burgess MSP, Rhoda Grant MSP and Maree Todd MSP. An estimated 1200 trees were planted over the week – with the rest to be planted by professionals.

Around half a million native trees will be planted – mostly Scots pine, birch and willow but also oak, aspen, alder, hazel and juniper. 

Almost all the trees being planted will be grown on from seed which has been collected on or immediately around the site, so the saplings are expected to be suited to local conditions. 

The National:

A wide variety of insects and birds, such as wood warblers, are also supported in this type of environment. However, much of Scotland’s rainforest has been lost, with the remnants highly fragmented and often in need of restoration due to invasive species, as well as pressure from animals such as deer, which eat young seedlings and can prevent natural regeneration.

The group states that “Scotland’s rainforest is in trouble” and that as “little as 30,000 hectares remain” – this is 2% of Scotland’s woodland cover.

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George Anderson of Woodland Trust Scotland said: “Scotland’s rainforest is one of our most precious habitats. It is as important as tropical rainforest, but even rarer. Yet few people in Scotland know it exists and fewer still know how globally significant it is. If we don’t start taking serious and urgent action to support and protect our rainforest, we face the risk of losing this internationally important habitat completely. The longer we wait, the harder it will become.

“Planting trees does not create an instant rainforest, but because we already have the habitat at Ben Shieldaig it means the mosses, ferns, lichens and other species will have a good chance of colonising these new woods. Given time we hope they will become fine new native woods, and ultimately new areas of Scotland’s rainforest. All the while soaking up carbon as part of the fight against climate change.”

Anderson added: “A massive thank you to everyone who came along to help us get the first trees in the ground. The weather over the week was mixed but it didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits. We are facing a climate emergency and a nature crisis. Planting trees is one of the simplest and most effective responses to both challenges. We hope the youngest participants in the past week will remember playing their part, as they watch the forest develop in the years ahead.”