Temperate Rainforests

Phoebe L. Hanson
Climate Advocate

At one point in history, my home would be engulfed in temperate rainforests, the kind belonging in a Tolkein book. Britain would have been a rainforest nation.

Most have heard of tropical rainforests, but few realise they have temperate counterparts. Temperate rainforest is a habitat found in only a few places around the world, in areas influenced by the sea, with high oceanicity. They’re very damp woodlands, so much so that plants grow on other plants – known as ‘epiphytes’. Temperate rainforests house the perfect conditions for moisture-loving lichens and bryophytes, along with rare birds and butterflies, and are a crucial carbon sink.

Parts of this globally rare habitat finds its ideal conditions in the West of the UK and in Ireland, but we are left with just fragments of what once was. Temperate rainforest fragments like this cover only 1% of Britain, while 20% of landmass is rainy and mild enough for temperate rainforest to thrive. The deep magic of my country has been felled, overgrazed, and overplanted. Biodiversity has been lost.

Our rainforests were once a vital resource, but they have suffered a long-term decline. Temperate rainforest oak is twisted and stunted, often called ‘scrub oak’, seen as useless when compared to sturdy lowland oak. This led to its destruction, along with invasive species, disease, and overgrazing, which still has an impact on the few fragments we have left.

Temperate rainforests should lie on my doorstep, but they don’t. Instead, I catch glimpses of lichen in the Lake District amid an overgrazed landscape, waiting for our relationship with nature to change.

Temperate Rainforests Pamela EA Climate Words

Polypodium vulgare, an epiphytic wonder flourishing on the moss-draped trees within the temperate rainforest of Scotland. Did you know the name draws its origin from "poly" (many) and "pous, podos" (a foot), encapsulating its unique botanical character? Scotland, UK, 2023.
Photography By Pamela EA