South America: Atlantic Forest brought to life at Chelsea


The World Land Trust (WLT) has won a coveted gold medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show by bringing to life one of the world's most endangered forests.

Wood hut in the middle of tropical plants

The gold medal winning World Land Trust exhibit at this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

The creation features 48 Atlantic Rainforest plants growing in compost made from London’s recycled sandwiches.

In South America the Atlantic Forest is an unsung and often forgotten smaller sibling to the Amazon, but its diversity is just as impressive and its plight much more immediate. Historically spanning the eastern seaboard of Brazil, before heading inland to northern Argentina and Paraguay it was one of the first landscapes encountered by early European explorers and provided much of the timber for the building of the New World.

This exploitation has continued at pace to the present day where we are faced with a forest system that is horribly fragmented and probably totals only seven (7) per cent of its original cover. But despite these severe losses hope is brewing and WLT are one of main organisations fermenting the ideas and tactics that could save this great landscape.

WLT are involved in three major projects in the Atlantic Forest where they help local conservation organisations buy land to protect.

The foundations of the REGUA Reserve (Reserva Ecologica de Guapi Assu) in Brazil were created in 1994 after a visit by John Burton (CEO of WLT) and Professor Ghillean Prance led to WLT funding. The reserve has been expanding ever since. In Paraguay WLT enabled Guyra Paraguay to buy threatened forest and it's now doing the same through Fundación Frontera Verde in Misiones, Argentina where some of the largest fragments of Atlantic Forest remain.

Creating an exhibit at Chelsea is obviously not on the same scale as saving an entire rainforest, but to accurately and sensitively tell the story still required a monumental effort.

Bill Oddie admiring the exhibitJohn Burton - who has recently returned from the Atlantic Forest where he was showing the famous (for all sorts of reasons) naturalist Bill Oddie (pictured left, admiring the exhibit) the projects - said: "It was daunting to endeavour to recreate the real thing at Chelsea. But Bill was wonderfully enthused about our aim, and the team we had put together has created a first class exhibit. As the future of the world’s tropical forests hang by a thread, what better time to bring alive the beauty of the Atlantic Rainforest to the thousands of visitors to the Chelsea Flower Show?"

The ‘Saving the Atlantic Rainforest’ exhibit, in the Continuous Learning Section, where it also won Best in Section, not only brings to life the beauty of the Atlantic Rainforest but the importance of protecting what is considered to be the most endangered rainforest in the world. The authentic creation features 48 Atlantic Rainforest plants growing in a compost made from London’s recycled sandwiches. The Ranger’s Hut and the Ranger’s garden highlights the importance of local people who are ultimately responsible for protecting the rainforest reserves being created.

The Ranger’s Hut also features a plasma screen which appears as a window. Impressively the conservation charity have established a live web cam in the Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil which allows Chelsea visitors to see some of the spectacular birds of the rainforest live from Brazil.

Related links:

How to make a Chelsea exhibit (day by day photos from WLT)

Video link to Atlantic Rainforest in Brazil

Simon Barnes interviews Sir David Attenborough, Patron of WLT, in The Times

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