A CALL has gone out to the public to help protect areas of temperate rainforest in Somerset.

The Lost Rainforests of Britain campaign launched this week is urging action to help map the lichen-clad ancient oaks of Horner Woods, on Exmoor.

The appeal also covers the fragments of temperate rainforest that cling to the steep-sided river valleys of the north Somerset coast.

People are being urged to venture into their local woodland to record any information they find about temperate rainforest, including location and photos.

By mapping the details HERE it will make it easier to protect the lost rainforests.

Environmental campaigner Guy Shrubsole, who leads the project, said: "Few people realise that Britain is home to such a globally rare habitat.

"Unfortunately, our temperate rainforest only remains in fragmented pockets, but this doesn’t have to be the case.

"The best way to bring back the lost rainforests is to better protect what we have left, and then allow these rainforests fragments to expand and regenerate naturally.

"By introducing a Great British Rainforests Strategy and committing significant funding and protection, the Government can bring back our lost temperate rainforests by supporting landowners to build a barrier around existing rainforest to stop overgrazing and allow it to regenerate."

Historically, temperate rainforests covered a much larger area of Britain and due to Britain’s maritime climate the habitat has the potential to cover 20 per cent of the country.

The temperate rainforests were initially cleared in the Bronze Age and the medieval period, but some were also lost more recently due to forestry policies, and overgrazing is now preventing their return.

David Harland, of Cornwall's Eden Project, said: “We are thrilled to see the Lost Rainforests of Britain campaign calling for the protection and restoration of temperate rainforests.

"Here at the Eden Project, we are lucky to have some of our own temperate rainforest that people can visit, so it would be brilliant for the public to get really hands on with this campaign.

"This is a call to action for people to get involved by exploring and mapping extremely rare temperate rainforest in their local area.”

Apart from the South West, other major temperate rainforest zones are in Cumbria, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Snowdonia, the Elenydd and the West Coast of Scotland.