It is the unique combination of ancient woodlands, open glades, boulders, crags, ravines and river gorges that make up Scotland's answer to the tropical rainforests.

Once found all along Europe’s Atlantic coast the temperate rainforest has dwindled over thousands of years.

And the west coast of Scotland is one of the last strongholds of this spectacular habitat with its array of lichens, fungi, mosses and ferns – some found nowhere else in the world.

But Scotland’s rainforest is in trouble. As little as 75,000 acres remain – a mere 2% of Scotland’s woodland cover.

Now a cash crisis has emerged in a bid to make the first wave of new steps to save the ancient forest in Scotland which is being lost to overgrazing by deer and livestock, invasive plant species and disease.

These are currently two that "ready to go" schemes in Scotland to save the rainforest in Argyll and Morvern, but are critically short of funds to launch.

The £3.8m Saving Morven’s Rainforest project led by RSPB Scotland is facing a funding gap on the Morvern bid which the charity can’t afford the risk of underwriting in the current financial climate of at least £500,000 and that is without the hoped for £2.3m funding from the EU LIFE programme, which is still in the melting pot despite Brexit.

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Even if they are successful in their bid to the LIFE fund, the whole project could fall if they don’t find sufficient match funding.

And the Argyll’s Rainforest project is looking for £350,000 to allow for the first phase of its programme.


Argyll is home to more than half of the remaining rainforest habitat in Scotland.

The Argyll and the Isles Coast and Countryside Trust (ACT), was invited to develop an application to the National Heritage Lottery Fund in March 2020 in connection with the project.

Due to the Covid-19 crisis however, the fund was "put on hold as it understandably turned its attention to schemes countering effects of the virus", said the Alliance for Scotland's Rainforest.

Julie Stoneman, the Alliance's Saving Scotland's Rainforest project manager said: "The rainforest crisis comes from multiple threats to the rainforest – particularly rhododendron invading the habitat and high numbers of deer preventing regeneration, though thre are other issues, including nitrogen pollution.

"However, this globally important habitat has a surprising low profile, which means it hasn’t had the attention it deserves to tackle these threats – so we need to raise that profile urgently to those that can make a difference.

"We have identified a number of landscape scale projects in key areas to help the situation, but recognises that public policy also needs to change if we are to tackle these threats across the entire zone.

"There's a cash crisis for two reasons. Firstly because we are living in very precarious times financially.

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"The second is that importance of the habitat and the urgency to save it doesn’t seem to be recognised. Bids for both projects have also failed in the past for other reasons; and its even been suggested that we can only apply for one rainforest project at a time across the whole rainforest zone which is huge, stretching from north Sutherland to south of Argyll.


"The longer we leave it, the worse it gets,particularly when it comes to rhododendron."

Last March, an Expression of Interest in the Argyll project was accepted, only for it to be almost immediately withdrawn due to the Covid pandemic.

It is the sheer quantity of rain, coupled with a mean annual temperature that is neither too hot nor too cold, that enables temperate rainforests to thrive in Scotland and in other isolated pockets around the world.

But the rainforests have become fragmented with around 50 per cent having been destroyed already and the habitats have become even more endangered than their more famous tropical counterparts.

Two years ago, Scottish Natural Heritage launched a widespread plan to kill the rhododendron bushes from the unique ancient Celtic rainforests along the west coast as they become increasingly choked with the plant which is causing the climate to change on the forest floor.

The action plan with other conservation charities would see the invasive species have their roots killed so they die slowly.

But last yea the dangers, and plans to regenerate the forest, were set out in a report by the Atlantic Woodland Alliance.

The alliance of 16 charities and organisations found that almost all of the rainforest is over-grazed to a degree that prevents trees and other plants from re-growing, says the alliance Invasive rhododendron can be found in 40% of rainforest sites where it threatens to choke the woodlands.

Ash dieback, which is caused by a fungus, threatens the future of northern and western ash woods And climate change and air pollution also risks the clean air needs for most of the forest's plants to survive.