These Lost Rainforests are Making a Comeback

Temperate Rainforests Host Unique Flora and Fauna.


These Lost Rainforests are Making a Comeback | Temperate Rainforests Host Unique Flora and Fauna.

The word rainforest conjures up images of thick, dense foliage stretching hundreds of feet into the air, exotic creatures like monkeys and jaguars, and brightly colored flora and fauna. But, if you live in the United Kingdom, you can experience a rainforest without traveling too far from your flat or cottage.

Surprisingly, rainforests aren’t just native to the Earth’s equator. Around 0.5 percent of the United Kingdom’s landmass hosts temperate rainforests, according to the organization The Lost Rainforests of Britian. And, while you will not be able to spot a lemur or a toucan camouflaged in these woods, they do contain an incredible amount of biodiversity in the form of mosses, lichens, and fungi. 

What is a temperate rainforest
Unlike the better-known tropical rainforests, temperate rainforests aren’t found in equatorial areas. According to National World, these forests occur only in a handful of places on Earth — the Pacific Northwest in the United States, Southern Chile, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, and the West coast of the United Kingdoms. These places are wet enough, and mild enough, to host significant biodiversity.

United Kingdom’s-based conservation organization, organization Plantlife, lists the characteristics that temperate rainforests share with their tropical cousins. Both are found in places with high rainfall and humidity. The humidity ends up trapped under the tree’s tall canopies, and feeds the moss and lichen in the forest. Both require lots of sunlight and mild weather. 

Rainforests have layers to them, and temperate rainforests are no exception. They also have a canopy, understory, and a spongy, overgrown forest floor, rife with plant and animal life. A key characteristic of rainforests is that the trees themselves support other life. The trunks of the trees and the forest floor are covered with lichens, fungi, and mosses in both temperate and tropical rainforests.

One fifth of Britain
Over the last several thousand years, The Guardian reports, farmers and grazers have cleared Great Britain’s great rainforests. Invasive species, pollution, and climate change, also contributed to shrinking these woodlands, which now occupy less than 1 percent of the island.

The good news however is, that trend may be reversible. Around one fifth of the United Kingdom has the right climate and temperature to host rainforests. With the right care and legislation, the forests could grow back, and cover a significant portion of the isles yet again, Guy Shrubsole, the head of the Lost Rainforests of Britain campaign tells The Guardian. 

“It is highly likely that that area would have been once covered with rainforest thousands of years ago,” Shrubsole explains. “Ultimately, I think that’s something we need to take inspiration from and look to the past to think about what we need to be bringing back in future. I don’t necessarily think we could cover all of the 20%. But I do think we could allow those existing fragments that we have identified to expand in size.”

It isn’t just Shrubsole and his campaign looking to conserve and expand the unique, yet threatened habitat. A recent YouGov poll found that more than 90 percent of British citizens are in favor of conservation measures to protect the rainforest. 85 percent want the government to fund its expansion as well.

Shrubsole thinks that such expansion could take place relatively quickly, with the government’s support. He thinks the forests could double in size within only a generation, and he isn’t just sitting around waiting for that to happen. He’s been campaigning for government protection, as well as recruiting the public to help map the existing forest cover. 

A magical world of mosses
Other than preserving their natural beauty, a benefit of conserving the forests is that they host unique species, found nowhere else in the world. Shrubsole tells Sky News that 500 species of lichen and more than 150 species of mosses and liverworts are supported by the rainforest. These fungi attach themselves to nearly every open space on tree trunks and the forest floor, painting the scene in bewitching, otherworldly greens and reds.

Shrubsole also shows off some of the fascinating native species to Sky News. "This is peltigera or dog lichen,” he explains. “It gets its name because on the underside they've got what looks like little sharp teeth. But a bit further down we've got some of those sticta lichens that, if you rub them, smell of fish," 

National World reports on some of the other unique and beautiful species, including the beefsteak fungus, named for its resemblance to a dripping raw steak. Western Scotland hosts a colorful suction-pad shaped jelly lichen aptly called octopus suckers.

Great Britain is a home to far more than just towering castles and rolling green lawns - it also has its own stunning temperate rainforests. They are characterized by magnificent trees, lichen, and mosses that can be found nowhere else in the world. These forests are not only beautiful but they also support countless species, making them an invaluable part of Great Britain’s landscape. With conservation measures put into action, the UK’s citizens can ensure that generations to come can enjoy their serenity and beauty as well.

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