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Minister Lesley Griffiths to launch the Celtic Rainforests Wales LIFE project

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29 August 2019

On Thursday the 5th September Welsh Minister Lesley Griffiths will officially launch the Celtic Rainforests Wales project at Ganllwyd Village Hall near Dolgellau. Stakeholders will come together to learn about the aims of the 7-year project, funded primarily by the EU LIFE programme and the Welsh Government’s Green Infrastructure Grant.

This substantial new project has the overarching aim of improving the ecological condition of ancient oak woodlands in Wales, known as the Celtic Rainforests. These habitats sustain a wide diversity of species, some of which are very rare, and it is due to this diversity that these woodlands are of international importance. Of particular interest is their outstanding populations of Atlantic flora of bryophytes and lichens, whichalongside the host of other plant species which reside within the woodland provide the perfect home for insects, birds and small mammals such as the pied flycatcher and lesser horseshoe bat.

Currently, many of Wales’s native woodlands are in an unfavorable condition. Primary threats to the woodlands include the presence of invasive alien plant species such as Rhododendron ponticum, inadequate grazing regimes, and lack of woodland management, and without the interventions proposed through this project, the condition of these woodlands would certainly deteriorate further.

In addition to the ecological benefits of the proposed work, the restoration of the woodlands will also offer significant public benefits in terms of creating a more pleasant, varied and interesting environment for people to visit and enjoy. There is a great onus within the project on engaging with local communities, aimed at ensuring the viability of the woodlands beyond the duration of the project. By doing so, we hope to inspire people to promote and look after the Celtic Rainforests of Wales, thus ensuring a legacy to the project for generations to come.

Lesley Griffiths, Minister:

“This project is strengthening the resilience of some of our most precious ecosystems and making a vital contribution to Wales' response to the current climate and ecological crises. The Celtic Rainforest are critical to Wales' wellbeing. This project is an outstanding example of how by mobilising diverse partners and local communities to safeguard our natural heritage we can boost the local economy whilst fulfilling our global responsibilities".

Emyr Williams, Chief Executive of Snowdonia National Park Authority is excited by the ambition of the project:

“In addition to the vital improvements the project will make to these highly valued habitats, it also brings significant economic benefits to parts of rural Wales. By utilizing local contractors and service providers in helping us to deliver this ambitious project, we will be ensuring the significant economic benefits of the project remain in Wales, a key objective of the National Park Authority.”

Katie-jo Luxton, Director of RSPB Cymru, said:

“Wales holds half the world’s Western Atlantic sessile oakwoods, so securing the future of our Celtic Rainforest is important at a global scale. This project will benefit rare tree lichens, and birds such as wood warblers whose rich song typifies the woodland dawn chorus. The EU-LIFE funding is an essential starting point, but it’s crucial that beyond Brexit there is funding for land managers to look after the Welsh countryside and restore such precious places, continuing the positive management that this exciting project will achieve.”

Natalie Buttriss, Director of Wales for the Woodland Trust (Coed Cadw) added:

“It’s not just important to restore these sites - it’s important to get people involved in them, to get them to share the excitement, the magic that they can invoke. If people really value something, they’ll help to protect it. So the Celtic Rainforest project aims to build up this enthusiasm. That’s the reason, of course, why virtually all our own woods are open for everyone to visit, at any time and for free. This is a great project and we’re delighted to be part of it.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The Welsh Government has contributed a £2 million Green Infrastructure Grant, enabling the partnership to draw in a further £4.5m from the European Commission via their LIFE Nature and Biodiversity programme.
  2. The project is led by Snowdonia National Park Authority on behalf of a partnership consisting of RSPB Cymru, Coed Cadw / The Woodland Trust, Natural Resources Wales, Dŵr Cymru / Welsh Water, and Welsh Government.
  3. A key element of the project is to eradicate Rhododendron ponticum from within the woodlands, and a buffer zone around them. This invasive alien plant suppresses native vegetation, creating conditions that are unfavourable to other wildlife. In particular, the plant prevents sunlight from reaching the woodland floor, stopping young oak seedlings from becoming established, and outcompeting other native plants.
  4. At some sites, the dense cover of introduced conifer trees has been casting shade over the ancient woodland soil below, suppressing the wild flowers and reducing the range of insects and birds that once thrived there. As part of the project, conifer plantations will be thinned out to encourage the re-establishment of native species. .
  5. Another core objective  of the project is to improve land management within selected woodlands, with the introduction of grazing as a management tool within certain sites. Cattle, sheep, and ponies will be introduced into certain areas as appropriate, and to promote best practice by showcasing this work through case studies and events.
  6. Four rural areas across Wales are set to benefit. These are the areas local to five Special Areas of Conservation (SACs): Eryri SAC, Meirionnydd Oakwoods and Bat Sites SAC, Coed Cwm Einion SAC, Elan Valley Woodlands SAC and Cwm Doethie - Mynydd Mallaen SAC.
  7. As well as featuring a talk from the Minister the launch will hear from Martin Harper of the RSPB; Natalie Buttriss of Woodland Trust Wales (Coed Cadw) and Emyr Williams of Snowdonia National Park Authority. A guided walk around the Dolmelynllyn Estate in Ganllwyd will follow in the afternoon. The estate, owned by the National Trust, will showcase successful woodland management, with the Highland cattle a perfect example of how conservation grazing can benefit the habitat.
  8. For further information please contact Ioan Gwilym, Communications Officer, Snowdonia National Park Authority on 01766 770274 / 07900 267506  or e-mail ioan.gwilym@eryri.llyw.cymru