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The UK’s Ancient Rainforests: a hidden gem

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Temperate rainforests, also known as Atlantic woodlands, are found in areas close to the ocean, with high rainfall and humidity. This precious habitat is becoming ever more rare, only being found in a few places across the world. The map below shows the global distribution of Temperate Rainforests. 

Interestingly, the UK is one of few places where temperate forests are still found, specifically in the West coast of Scotland, Wales, Devon and Cornwall. They host a rich variety of flora and fauna, ranging from oaks, lime trees, to red foxes and pleated woodpeckers. The abundant biodiversity extends beyond what meets the eye, with over 200 different species of bryophytes and lichen. The lichen thrive in the damp conditions that the temperate rainforest provides, attracting a plethora of insects and bug life. 

Why are temperate forests disappearing?

Sadly, ancient rainforests faced deforestation throughout the 20th century for valuable timber, as well as pressures from overgrazing, mainly by deer, and fungal diseases such as ash dieback. The fragmented and dispersed nature of temperate rainforests heighten vulnerability to these pressures. Inevitably, climate change poses a new threat to the rainforests. As global temperatures continue to rise, the incidence of droughts increases, reducing the humidity within these habitats. Consequently, the survival of the few remaining temperate rainforests is endangered.   


Restoration of temperate rainforests not only offers an opportunity to increase biodiversity, but also climate change mitigation benefits. Temperate forests have fast growth rates, enabling a carbon sink to be established quickly through the replanting of native trees. 

On a more positive note, the Woodland Trust works across 100 sites in the UK to reforest ancient rainforests. A promising location for rainforest restoration is Ausewell Wood, located in Devon. With plans to plant Douglas Fir and Spruce, it is hoped that within 20 years Ausewell Wood will once again be a thriving temperate rainforest.

This interactive map shows where you can visit temperate rainforests within the UK. 

This blog was kindly written by Olivia, 2nd year geography student at the University of Nottingham.


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