In order to enable true landscape scale recovery of ecosystems there are three elements that need to be considered: Cores, Corridors and Carnivores. Is there a core area or habitat that forms the start point for this restoration effort? Can nature corridors be created between different cores to allow the movement of species? Finally, are carnivores present or will they be reintroduced to enable the full trophic functioning of this ecosystem?
The Cornwall Rainforest Project begins with its core at Cabilla. This is our demonstration site where we have enough space and habitat variety to begin the process of restoring temperate rainforest in a range of mutually supporting methods. In searching for other temperate rainforest sites in the area that might serve as further cores the Cornwall Wildlife Trust reserve of West Muchlarnick near Pelynt raised its head as an obvious and attractive sister site. Ten miles due south from Cabilla this reserve holds a healthy vestige of rainforest on the western banks of the West Looe River and there is an enthusiastic appetite from the Wildlife Trusts to protect and restore it further. Now we have our cores.
The land between these two cores consists of two meandering river valleys, the Bedalder and the West Looe, which are made up of a patchwork of native deciduous woodland, coniferous forestry blocks and grade 4 and 5 grazing land. The ownership of this corridor is eclectic and includes the Duchy, Cornwall Council, the Forestry Commission and a number of small and mid-sized farmers. These are the settings where DEFRAs new Landscape Scale Recovery Programme thrive. By creating a cluster of farmers, landowners and organisations along this corridor our next step will be to build a community of the willing who are prepared and able to release certain areas of non-native coniferous timber land or marginal sheep grazing for temperate rainforest restoration. All of this land will have carefully designed public rights of way criss-crossing it so that the magnificent mental health benefits of temperate rainforests can be experienced by everyone who needs them. Once we have a continuous rainforest running between Cabilla and West Muchlarnick our corridor will have come to life.
We are a long way away from any conversations about apex predators in the south-west. I’m not going to begin claiming that the next stage of this process would be to return wolves to the Cornwall Rainforest Project. There are however a range of meso-predators, the level of carnivores that sit one rung beneath our larger predators, that might be appropriate to bring back to these corridors. At the Thousand Year Trust we have already begun the stakeholder engagement programme for our wild cat reintroduction project. The Eurasian wild cat would have been native to all of our deciduous woodland once upon a time. Unfortunately, as is often the way, these beautiful small feline predators were hunted to extinction by humans in this part of the country and only a small population remains in Scotland. There is an active reintroduction movement across Exmoor, Dartmoor and, through us, on Bodmin Moor and it won’t be long before the rabbits and squirrels of our forests have large yellow eyes watching them from the cover of the oak trees.