Rainforests to be restored in Wales and Isle of Man

Healthy rainforests act as a filter to keep pollution out of water. Image: Ben Porter / North Wales Wildlife Trust

Two water-rich temperate rainforests are to be restored and expanded as part of a major recovery programme across the British Isles.

Led by the Wildlife Trusts, a federation of conservation charities, the programme will bring in local communities, giving increased access to nature, volunteering, educational and employment opportunities.

Temperate rainforests, also known as Atlantic woodland, grow in cooler climates than tropical rainforests, and are found in places with exposure to the sea. Healthy forests act as a filter to keep pollution out of water, while also providing cleaner air and reduced flood risk.

"Restoring this gorgeous habitat will allow adaptation to climate change, reduce threats from extreme heat, flood and drought, and enable local people to reap the benefits.”

Rob Stoneman, Wildlife Trusts

They are home to an abundance of wildlife, including stoats and red squirrels, and threatened birds like wood warblers, redstarts and pied flycatchers and their damp conditions create the perfect environment for moisture-loving plants, rare mosses and fungi.

Temperate rainforests are home to birds such as the pied flycatcher. Image: Vaughn Matthews / Wildlife Trusts

British rainforests have been largely destroyed over hundreds of years and now cover less than 1% of Britain. The ambitious programme will see their restoration and expansion in areas where they used to grow along the damper, western climes of the British Isles. The first two sites are Creg y Cowin in the Isle of Man and Bryn Ifan in North Wales.

Oak branch and polypody ferns. Image: Ben Porter / North Wales Wildlife Trust

Rob Stoneman, director of landscape recovery at the Wildlife Trusts, said, “We’re delighted these first rainforest restoration projects can now get started. They’ll provide vital habitat for wildlife in a time of nature crisis, store vast amounts of carbon and benefit local communities for generations to come.

"Restoring this gorgeous habitat will also allow adaptation to climate change, reduce threats from extreme heat, flood and drought, and enable local people to reap the benefits.”

Creg y Cowin, Isle of Man – Manx Wildlife Trust

Over 70 acres will be planted with native tree species, with around 20 acres allowed to regenerate naturally. The rainforest will increase water purity for the West Baldwin Reservoir, help with flood prevention and contribute to a nature recovery network in the Isle of Man. Manx Wildlife Trust anticipates the return of birds such as wood warbler, pied flycatcher, redstart, raptors and owls.

Bryn Ifan, Gwynedd – North Wales Wildlife Trust

Over 100 acres of rainforest on the coastal slopes of Bwlch Mawr mountain are to be restored, through a mix of native planting and natural regeneration. Areas will be dedicated to nature-friendly farming, while work will begin to improve important wetlands to help rare species, such as the marsh fritillary butterfly. Tree species will include oak, birch and alder.

Oak sapling and polytrichum moss. Image: Ben Porter, c/o North Wales Wildlife Trust

The rainforest recovery programme is being supported by a £38million fund from insurance business Aviva. It is part of a wider programme of nature-based projects funded by Aviva to remove carbon from the atmosphere and to help nature recover.