Rewilding Argyll’s rainforests

Rhododendron ponticum at Kilmory.

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An Argyll nature trust has been granted over £200,000 to help rid two Caledonian rainforests of invasive rhododendron, which is crowding out native tress and lower plant species.

The Argyll and the Isles Coast and Countryside Trust (ACT) was awarded £214K from the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund, to improve woodland around Kilmory in Lochgilphead and at Glenan Woods in Cowal.

The money will also support the appointment of ACT’s Ranger team, and provide a polytunnel for ACT’s MAKI Pups Outdoor Nursery at Kilmory Walled Garden near Lochgilphead, as a resource for the children to learn about seeds, planting and growing.

ACT development manager, Julie Young said: ‘Rhododendron ponticum, lovely that its summer blossom maybe to some, is a significant non-native invasive plant in our remnant rainforests in Argyll. Thanks to the Nature Restoration Fund, ACT is able to remove this barrier to rainforest restoration in two mid-Argyll strongholds.

‘As ACT has demonstrated elsewhere, this will allow woodland biodiversity to flourish, and make it easier for us all to get in amongst the woods, learn about them, exercise more, and just feel better from being in such a wonderful green space.’

Forest Ranger Rhyddian Knight, speaking on behalf of Friends of Glenan Wood said: ‘I can’t overemphasize how thankful we are to ACT for inviting our community rainforest at Glenan to be a site for this grant, the execution of this contract [Rhododendron removal] will allow us virtually to eradicate one of the three major threats to the woods.’

Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, Robin Currie, said: ‘“The woodland at Kilmory Estate is an important natural asset to Argyll and Bute and it is vital that we do everything we can to conserve its natural resources. The announcement of this funding to clear invasive species will greatly benefit the biodiversity of the woodland and will complement new native planting around the estate.’

Biodiversity minister, Lorna Slater, said: ‘Too much of Scotland’s natural environment is degraded after years of over-exploitation, but this Government is committed to restoring nature and our wildlife. The fund kick starts a new approach, supporting longer-term, larger, landscape-scale projects across Scotland – on land and at sea – that address the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.’

ACT’s project ‘Rewilding Argyll’s Rainforest’ is one of 54 successful projects across Scotland to share £5million committed in this round of the Nature Restoration Fund, which overall will invest £65million during this parliament.

NatureScot chief executive, Francesca Osowska, said: ‘COP26 in Glasgow has driven home the urgency of the situation. But there is hope. Scotland is taking action now to meet the huge challenges and pressures that nature is facing, and it’s projects like these that will make the difference and set us on the road to recovery.’