DIY Rainforest Restoration

On a blustery, wet Wednesday in the wake of ‘Storm Arwen’ more than 20 attendees, including landowners and woodland managers joined Plantlife, Natural England and the Woodland Trust for a participatory demonstration workshop on restoring habitats for rare communities of lichens and bryophytes. The high levels of rainfall and humid conditions the group endured was testimony to why the west coast of Britain supports one of the world’s rarest woodland habitats, temperate rainforest.

The National Lottery Heritage funded partnership project ‘Building Resilience in the South West Woodlands’ led by Plantlife has supported the restoration management of over 4.7km and 11 hectares of temperate rainforest habitat in the East Dartmoor NNR (Yarner Wood and Bovey Valley Woodlands) since 2018, focused primarily around a network of historic, pre-medieval field boundaries lined with veteran trees.

The demonstration day showcased some of the work and management principles that the project has funded here, but also facilitated a chance for attendees to become actively involved in the management themselves. Given their own unmanaged boundary, the learners were able to see the entire process of restoration, from pre-surveying, to decision making, practical management (performed hastily by our skillful team of contractors from MS Tree Care over lunch) and post management surveying all within a single day. A specialist ecologist from Devon Wildlife Consultants was also on hand to carry out pre-surveys for protected species such as bats and dormice along the boundary before management, giving the participants an insight into some of the constraints on managing woodlands and ensuring rare species are protected.

Carefully measuring light levels before management, and exploring the importance of long-term monitoring in restoration, the group selected which stems of mostly holly, beech and Douglas fir were causing shading and reducing the biodiversity value of a section of historic bank, before these were cut. After lunch participants were able to come back and see the effects of management, and measure the resulting increase in light levels and compare with fixed point photography taken before. By being part of the management process and seeing the before and after it was hoped participants would feel enough confidence and experience from the day to go and carry out the same restoration model on their own temperate woodlands.

Overall the day felt very dynamic, innovative and it was inspiring to see participants engaging with the process with enthusiasm, bringing their own ideas and thoughts to the discussion, which generated some very stimulating debate and learning around temperate rainforest restoration.

The HLF funded project ‘Building Resilience in the South West Woodlands’ comes to end in June 2022, but collaboration on managing and restoring Britain’s temperate rainforests will continue.

Written by Sam Manning, Woodland Trust

To read more about the Building Resilience in South West Woodlands project:

Lighting up the Darkness

Building Resilience Back in the Bovey

A Light Introduction

My Lichen Summer School

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