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Lichens hit Holyrood

MSP Michael Russell champions Scotland's rare woodlands at the Scottish Parliament

January 18 2016

Tree Lungwort © Ray Woods

Tree Lungwort © Ray Woods

Plantlife's ‘Secrets of the Celtic Rainforest’ project, which aims to raise awareness of Scotland's internationally important, rare Atlantic woodlands, got off to a flying start this year with the help of Michael Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, who is also the ‘Species Champion’ for Tree Lungwort (Lobaria pulmonaria), a characteristically large leafy lichen of Celtic rainforests. 

In October, Michael Russell put forward a motion to the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood. The motion, which stated Plantlife Scotland’s work to conserve the Atlantic woodlands with the help of partner organisations, received cross-party support and was subsequently selected for a Member’s business debate. The Celtic Rainforest debate was held at Holyrood on 5th Jan and MSP’s from different parties, including the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform – Aileen McLeod, put forward their support to encourage greater awareness and conservation efforts for the habitat.

Michael Russell said: “I admit to being growingly aware of the rich variety of the lichens that we have as our heritage in Scotland, particularly in the Celtic rainforests, and growingly concerned at the very real threats to them. That is the primary reason why I sought this debate—to draw attention to those threats, to inspire action from parliamentarians and Government, and to celebrate the work that is already being done to protect and conserve the lichens”. 

During the debate, the main threats to the Celtic Rainforest were highlighted; encroachment from rhododrendron and habitat fragmentation or separation, and considered methods for its conservation were discussed. Michael continued by saying “Plantlife Scotland is doing a commendable job in working to identify zones of opportunity where there is the proper environment for species growth but in which there are not yet present all the species that would be able to flourish in that environment. It is working with land managers and teams of volunteers to identify the zones and make plans for how to manage them to ensure species growth”. 

The debate has pushed Celtic rainforests up the national agenda and will certainly help to widen awareness of the importance of the habitat as a whole and the masses of underappreciated species that live within them. This habitat is after all, rarer around the globe than tropical rainforest; beyond Britain and Ireland, it is found mainly in the redwood forests of North America, the beech forests of southern Chile, in south-east Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Taiwan. 

Aileen McLeod ended the debate by saying “The Celtic rainforests are truly special places that deserve special care, conservation and management. They provide a living link to our natural and cultural heritage. Therefore, we must all do our utmost to ensure that they are properly protected so that we can secure their long-term future.... I encourage more people to visit our Celtic rainforests, which are magnificent and unique”.

For a full transcript of the debate visit here.