Much of our native forests were originally cut down in order to create pasture for grazing animals, or for wood and fuel. At the beginning of the 20th century only 1.5% of the land area of Ireland was covered in forests. Successive governments encouraged and supported a national reforestation programme and forest cover is now at 11%. EU average forest cover is 34%.
The government plans to plant 440 million trees by 2040 to tackle emissions. The aim in the government’s Climate Action Plan 2019 is to plant an average of 8,000 hectares a year – the size of around 5,000 Croke Park pitches.
Forests that are grown for the purpose of timber sales tend to be monocultures. 51% of Ireland’s trees are now Sitka Spruce, a non-native conifer species which is favoured commercially but which some groups say are damaging the natural habitat.
Permanent native forests are the preferred option in terms of sustainability. A lot of thought has to go into what type of tree species is planted, where, in what soil, and for what purpose. These decisions have implications for biodiversity, habitats and ecosystems, as well as success in trapping carbon.
In existing Irish forests the soils are a significant reservoir for carbon. Around 80% of the carbon that is stored in forests is stored in the forest soils.
Agroforestry is the growing of both trees and agricultural / horticultural crops on the same piece of land. The aim is to provide tree and other crop products and at the same time protect, conserve, diversify and sustain vital economic, environmental, human and natural resources.
Research over the past 20 years has confirmed that agroforestry can be more biologically productive, more profitable, and be more sustainable than forestry or agricultural monocultures. Many other benefits have been shown. Temperate agroforestry systems are already widespread in many parts of the world and are central to production in some regions.
- Society of Irish Foresters – https://www.societyofirishforesters.ie/mission-statement/
- Irish native tree species – https://treecouncil.ie/tree-advice/native-species/
- Forestry advice and information from Teagasc – https://www.teagasc.ie/crops/forestry/
- Timber Harvesting – https://www.teagasc.ie/crops/forestry/advice/timber-harvesting/
- Trees, shrubs and seeds from Future Forests – https://futureforests.ie/
- Agroforestry – https://www.agroforestry.co.uk/about-agroforestry/silvoarable/
- Forestry Grants – https://www.teagasc.ie/crops/forestry/grants/