Celtic Rainforests LIFE - Restoring the Celtic Temperate Rainforest of Wales toward Favourable Conservation Status

LIFE17 NAT/UK/000020

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Contact details:

Contact person: Gethin DAVIES
Tel: 44(0)1766 772 255
Email: Gethin.Davies@eryri.llyw.cymru

Project description:


The Celtic Rainforests are regarded as the ‘temperate rainforests’ of Europe, owing to their open woodland structure, mild and humid conditions, and rich plant assemblages. They mainly comprise a mosaic of two Annex 1 Habitats Directive woodland habitats: ‘Old sessile oak woods with Ilex and Blechnum in the British Isles’ and ‘Tilio-Acerion forests of slopes, screes and ravines’. However, the conservation status of these two habitats is ‘unfavourable-bad and declining’ and ‘unfavourable-bad’ at the Atlantic biogeographic level. The primary cause is invasion by non-native plant species, especially the shrub Rhododendron ponticum, which alters light and soil conditions, outcompetes native flora and suppresses regeneration. Among the other threats are over- or under-grazing, a lack of management, and atmospheric nitrogen pollution. The UK holds around 95% of the old sessile woods and 70% of the Tilio-Acerion forest habitats, and therefore has a particular responsibility to return these habitats to a ‘favourable’ conservation status.


The Celtic Rainforests LIFE project aims to improve the conservation status of two woodland habitats listed in Annex 1 of the Habitats Directive in five Natura 2000 network sites (SACs) in north- and mid-Wales. Specific objectives are to:

  • Clear Rhododendron ponticum and reduce populations of other invasive non-native species, including Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), with the creation of buffer areas and mechanisms for long-term management;
  • Implement active woodland management, grazing and restoration to improve habitats, resilience and ecosystem functions, supported by local partnerships;
  • Demonstrate best practices, including the three-stage approach to Rhododendron control, grazing tailored to individual sites, and practical habitat restoration techniques; and
  • Increase cultural, wildlife and natural capital value of the Celtic rainforests, with respect to local citizens, tourists, statutory agencies and government, for the benefit of future generations.
  • The project contributes to the Habitats Directive, the Biodiversity Strategy (Target 5) and the Regulation on Invasive Alien Species. The project also contributes to the UK’s commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and to the Nature Recovery Plan for Wales and the Welsh Assembly Government's strategy for woodlands and trees.

    Expected results:

  • Rhododendron ponticum eradicated from over 970 ha across four Natura 2000 sites (SACs) and within the southern section of another (Eryri/Snowdonia), and from within nearly 7 000 ha of risk-based buffer areas to prevent re-infestation;
  • Abundance of other invasive alien species (IAS) reduced across over 5 600 ha where the ‘favourable’ condition of target habitats is most threatened;
  • Four local community partnerships established to promote long-term control of IAS;
  • Implementation of grazing management over a total of 227 ha, and active woodland management over 130 ha, in Natura 2000 sites;
  • Woodland restoration, to replace conifers and non-native broadleaf trees, facilitated across at least 33 locations comprising 73 ha, and a further 50 locations comprising 110 ha in buffer areas;
  • Production and distribution of toolkit demonstrating the three-stage approach to Rhododendron control, and its demonstration at four events;
  • Outcome-based woodland grazing mechanisms demonstrated through 6 case studies and 12 events, and active woodland management techniques demonstrated via a case study and 4 events;
  • Engagement activities involving 2 000 members of the public, including 800 people in education, to make them aware of the cultural, biodiversity, access, economic and intrinsic value of Celtic rainforests; and
  • Networking with at least three other projects, and a further 100 members of the public engaged in volunteering activities.



Environmental issues addressed:


Habitats - Forests


restoration measure‚  preventive measure‚  grazing

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Regulation 1143/2014 - Prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien ...
  • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 ...
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...

Target Habitat types

  • 9180 - "Tilio-Acerion forests of slopes, screes and ravines"
  • 91A0 - Old sessile oak woods with Ilex and Blechnum in the British Isles

Natura 2000 sites

SPA UK9014111 Elenydd - Mallaen
SCI UK0012946 Eryri/ Snowdonia
SCI UK0014789 Coedydd Derw a Safleoedd Ystlumod Meirion/ Meirionnydd Oakwoods and Bat Sites
SCI UK0030117 Coed Cwm Einion
SCI UK0030128 Cwm Doethie - Mynydd Mallaen
SCI UK0030145 Coetiroedd Cwm Elan/ Elan Valley Woodlands



Coordinator Snowdonia National Park Authority
Type of organisation Park-Reserve authority
Description Snowdonia National Park Authority (SNPA) is the Local Planning Authority governing the National Park. It consists of 18 representatives from local and national government. Its statutory purpose is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area, and to promote the public’s understanding and enjoyment of the park.
Partners Woodland Trust, United Kingdom Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, United Kingdom


Project reference LIFE17 NAT/UK/000020
Duration 01-AUG-2018 to 31-JUL -2025
Total budget 9,512,759.00 €
EU contribution 5,707,655.00 €
Project location Wales(United Kingdom)


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Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version