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Saving Britain's Rain Forests

Yes, there are indeed rainforests in Britain, and they need a helping hand.

Lichen covered branches in the Snowdonia rain forest.

These ancient woodlands are drenched in rain that sweeps in across the Atlantic. They are humid and mild, with gnarled old trees covered in shaggy green blankets of mosses, lichens and ferns. Few other places in the world have these temperate rainforests, and in Britain they once covered much of the wet western side of the country. However, over time, these have been reduced to pockets of woodland in steep gullies and slopes where they manage to cling on in parts of west Scotland, Wales, the Lake District and south-west England.

These rare, beautiful habitats are threatened by farming, invasive plants and conifer plantations.

A pilot project in Snowdonia national park in north Wales is setting about restoring and expanding the rainforest there. Rhododendron ponticum is a shrub from the Mediterranean that can grow so vigorously it smothers other plants and can dominate woodlands. In a £7m project, the alien rhododendrons are being ripped out with all their roots, or the stems on each bush are injected with small amounts of herbicide to kill the entire plant.

Once the rhododendrons are eradicated, a few highland cattle are used to keep down bracken and brambles and leave the ground open for native trees and plants to regenerate naturally and to flourish once more.


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