Forestry policy could benefit Scotland's rainforest

Research at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) indicates that threatened species in the remaining fragments of Scotland’s own rainforest, along the country’s west coast, could benefit from small shifts in policy on forestry.

Certain species in this internationally important habitat, also known as the ‘Celtic rainforest’, could be facing an uncertain future if climate change predictions are right. Therefore, RBGE scientists have been studying the distribution of lichens – a specialised group of fungi that grow on trees, rocks and other surfaces – associated with this type of forest to provide baseline data. Using predictive computer models that take account of other major factors in lichen survival, such as air pollution and woodland structure, the team has demonstrated that the presence of old-growth
woodland is the most important factor controlling lichen distribution and diversity.

Dr Chris Ellis said “The ability of old-growth woodland to ‘buffer’ against the effects of climate change means that the location of new woodland around existing old-growth woodland could help offset the negative impact of climate change. Relatively small shifts in existing policy could provide a win-win situation for the Celtic rainforest alongside national objectives for increasing forest coverage.”

Published on 02 January 2011 in Ecosystems and biodiversity