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Rainforests in Danger

Great Bear Rainforest, USA & Canada

The Great Bear Rainforest is the name given to a large tract of the region of coastal temperate rainforest that stretches from Kodiak Island in Alaska, through Canada’s British Colombia to northern California’s redwood-dominated ‘fogbelt’. This comprises about one quarter of the world’s remaining tracts of temperate rainforest. Great Bear itself reaches from the tip of Vancouver Island to the Alaskan Panhandle, and includes the Queen Charlotte or Haida Gwaii Islands, and is the largest intact tract of temperate rainforest left on the coast.

Temperate rainforests, whilst having high rates of rainfall, soil rich in organic matter and a high overall biomass like tropical rainforests, differ in that they are much cooler in temperature. This means that growth and decomposition rates are slower and tree species are predominantly evergreen conifers. Trees in these forests can live to be 500 to 1,000 years old, and for this reason much of Great Bear Forest is classified as an old growth forest.

Great Bear is significant for many reasons: it is part of the traditional territory of the First Nations people, it has the highest biomass of any ecosystem on the planet, it has a high carbon sequestration capacity and it is home to several at risk species, including the endangered Marbled Murrelet, White Spirit or Kermode Bears, the rare Northern Goshawk and the Grizzly Bear, which is listed as vulnerable in British Columbia.

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The main threat to Great Bear Rainforest is logging. A majority of logging in Great Bear is clearcut logging, meaning that 70 to 100% of trees are cleared, effectively destroying all the habitat of species, as well as wildlife corridors and migration routes.

In February 2006 the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement, a public-private partnership was formed. In this agreement the government of British Columbia, along with First Nations, the logging industry, local communities and environmentalists committed themselves to protecting one third of the Great Bear Rainforest from logging and to implementing ecosystem-based management in the entire region. So far $(CAD)120 million has been raised to support the project, including $30 million pledged each from the Canadian government and the British Columbia provincial government.

Raincoast is a not-for-profit group carrying out research and conservation work in the Great Bear Rainforest. Their website is http://www.raincoast.org and has opportunities for volunteer involvement and donation.

 

Mount Warning National Park, Australia

Rainforests cover approximately 0.3% of Australia's landmass, but they contain about half of all of Australia's plant species and about a third of Australia's mammal and bird species. Importantly, many Australian rainforests also contain Gondwanan plant species that have survived for hundreds of thousands of years since the break-up of the Gondwanan super-continent. Sadly, over three-quarters of Australia's rainforests have been destroyed since European colonisation.

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Mount Warning National Park is a tract of subtropical rainforest situated in New South Wales near the Queensland border. Its has been listed as a World Heritage site since 1986. Mount Warning itself is the rhyolite plug of an extinct volcano, and the rich volcanic soil, coupled with the high rainfall and relatively high temperature and humidity make this area ideal for the rainforest plant and animal species that thrive in these conditions.

The area, called 'Wollumbin' in the local Aboriginal dialect, remains a significant sacred site for the area's traditional owners. The Bundjalung people ask that visitors do not visit some spiritually significant areas of the park. The area is also home to several rare and endangered species- both plant and animal. These include the Redfruited Ebony, the Green-leaved Rose Walnut, the Marbled Frogmouth, the Albert's Lyrebird, the Squirrel Glider and the Little Bentwing Bat.

The major threat to this rainforest community comes from introduced plant and animal species that prey on or overtake the habitat of the native species. Some threatened plant species have been planted in a rehabilitation effort, but regular weeding is needed, along with an eradication of feral cats, rabbits, cane toads and rats.

To learn more about the Mount Warning National Park you can visit the National Parks and Wildlife Service website Mount Warning page.

 

Sunart Oakwoods, Scotland

Sunart Oakwoods, is a remnant of temperate rainforest found in the Ardnamurchan region in Highland Scotland. Temperate rainforests such as this one once covered most of the west coast of Scotland as well as Wales and Cornwall, but are now very sparse. The Oakwoods are found on Loch Sunart, which provides year-round moisture- a characteristic of all rainforests.

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Rare and endangered species that are found in the area include Wildcats (only about 400 still exist in the wild), the Chequered Skipper Butterfly which is now only found in the west Highlands, the Pine Martin, Golden and White Tailed Eagles and Otters. The area is also rich in mosses, lichens and liverworts which are delicate plants that have trouble surviving in polluted areas.

The small size of this rainforest relative to what once existed in the area means that conservation and regeneration are crucial.

For more information on the Sunart Oakwoods see http://www.sunartoakwoods.org.uk/index.htm

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