Protecting the Celtic rainforest

Protecting the Celtic rainforest

Tim Birch

Wildlife Trusts Wales step back in time with Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Climate Change at North Wales Wildlife Trusts' Coed Crafnant nature reserve to discuss the importance of our Celtic rainforest.

Coed Crafnant nature reserve gives a rare glimpse into Britain's forested past. This 6,000-year-old ancient woodland provides the perfect conditions for a myriad of mosses, lichens, and ferns to flourish. Species have been recorded at the reserve, which was once thought to be nationally extinct! 

It is easy to see why this unique place was the perfect location to meet Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Climate Change to talk all about our plans for a National Forest in Wales.

Rachel Sharp, Wildlife Trusts Wales Director and Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Climate Change at the Celtic rainforest

Rachel Sharp, Wildlife Trusts Wales Director and Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Climate Change at the Coed Crafnant nature reserve

What are Celtic rainforests?

Coed Crafnant nature reserve forms part of the Celtic rainforest here in Wales. Temperate rainforests (also known as Celtic rainforest) are a special habitat, and incredibly rare. They're thought to be more threatened than tropical rainforests. 

Their lush conditions are perfect for scarce plants, lichens and fungi, as well as a number of unusual animals. They are found in areas subject to the influence of the sea (places with ‘high oceanicity’). These places have high rainfall and humidity and a low annual variation in temperature. This unique habitat of ancient oak, birch, ash, and hazel woodland is made even more diverse by open glades, boulders, crags, ravines and river gorges.

Ideal conditions for temperate rainforest are found along the UK’s western seaboard, including the west coast of Scotland, north and west Wales, Devon, Cornwall, Cumbria and parts of Northern Ireland.

Our rainforest is threatened. It has suffered long-term declines through clearances, chronic overgrazing, invasive species (specifically Rhododendron ponticum and associated hybrids) and conversion to other uses (sheep farming). This has left a small and fragmented resource, which reduces its resilience against other threats, such as pests, diseases and climate change.

How woodlands can help tackle climate change

Find out more

© Peter Cairns/2020VISION

Protecting our rainforest

Wales needs to protect, enhance, expand and connect this globally important habitat for the special wildlife that depends upon it.

The mosaic of woodland and other habitats that make up the wider rainforest should be bigger and in better conditionmore vital and regenerating, with the best sites expanded and reconnected to each other to allow the spread of wildlife. In addition, new areas to allow natural regeneration of rainforest could be created that will store carbon and slow floodwaters

This should be a core part of the National Forest – addressing not just formally designated Celtic rainforests but also those that exist outside of legal protection.

Afternoon sun shining beneath the canopy of a Celtic rainforest

Tim Birch

National Rainforest Strategy

We believe that Wales needs a National Rainforest Strategy.

Implementing this strategy would help:

  • Tackle the biodiversity crisis
  • Create nature-based solutions to climate change
  • Contribute to the Welsh Government’s ‘30 by 30’ pledge
  • Celebrate Wales’s rainforests to the people of Wales and tourists/visitors 
  • The people that live and work on the west coast of Wales – management of the rainforest provides jobs; and communities use it for exercise, health and well-being and as a natural classroom for school children