Britain’s vanishing rainforests must be protected, say campaigners | Trees and forests

Nearly three-quarters of England’s remaining temperate rainforests have no official protection, according to a new analysis, as the campaign urges the public to help identify, protect and expand what is left.

There are 18,870 hectares (46,624 acres) in England of an ecosystem that stretched from Cornwall to western Scotland, having been slowly cleared by humans over the centuries. Seventy-three percent of the remaining parts of the country are temperate rainforests, a species-rich habitat, not designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), despite their importance to biodiversity. Many of them are threatened by overgrazing, pollution and invasive species.

The Lost Rainforests of Britain, led by Jay Shropsol, environmental activist and author of Who Owns England?, is using resources from Plantlife, a conservation charity, to encourage people to identify and provide coordinates for the parts of the forest that still exist. The results will be compiled on a map that will be released soon. Shropsol is campaigning for the government to adopt a major British rainforest strategy to better protect the areas and allow them to regenerate naturally.

Ferns, mosses, and lichens grow on trees that grow along the O Brook Stream in Dartmoor.
Distinctive features of British temperate rainforests: multi-bodied ferns, mosses and lichens, carpet branches on trees growing along a stream or brook in Dartmoor. Photography: Jay Shropsol

At a recent event in Parliament, Environment Minister Rebecca Bowe said much of the remaining temperate rainforest was already protected, citing figures from Natural England. But analysis by the Lost Rainforests of Britain found that only 5,000 hectares (12,489 acres) of English rainforest are under formal protection in the SSSIs.

“These shocking statistics should prompt the government to urgently protect the remaining parts of the rainforest,” Shropsol said.

Temperate rainforests are rare, covering less than 1% of Britain and supporting an amazing array of species of lichens, mosses, birds and mammals. It is clear that we have a significant international responsibility to protect them. However, our analysis shows that barely a quarter of the precious rainforest sites in England under the protection of the SSSI.

“Ministers have stated that they are committed to protecting and restoring lost rainforests – now is the time to take action.”

In response, Bo . said The international importance of temperate rainforests, also known as Atlantic forests, in supporting rare and threatened species has been recognized in local biodiversity policy for many decades.

“Many temperate rainforests are protected under current policy. Many are old forests, protected from development in all but entirely exceptional circumstances; in the Tree Action Plan for England we have committed to increasing protection in the long-standing planning system of woodlands in England. The site is since 1840″.

“Many of our temperate rainforests support rich assemblies of species. SSSI Forestland Selection Guidelines focus on securing a representative chain rather than protecting each example.

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