Urgent action required to save our native woodlands
Once upon a time, forests covered pretty much the whole island of Ireland. About 5,000 years ago, this forest cover started to decline mainly because of human activities combined with increased rainfall.
Ireland is now the least wooded country in Europe with a forest cover of about 11pc. Less than two per cent is made up of semi-natural or native woodlands. Urgent action is required to safeguard their future and reap the numerous benefits they provide.
Native woodlands are made up of trees and associated plants that have grown naturally in Ireland since the end of the last Ice Age.
These include trees such as oak, ash, birch, rowan, hazel, alder, holly and hawthorn.
Native woodlands are a unique and valuable part of Ireland's natural capital and cultural heritage. They deliver key ecosystem services in relation to biodiversity, climate change mitigation, flood control, habitat linkage, water and soil protection, and landscape enhancement.
Many of our native woodlands also provide for outdoor recreation and are an ideal place for young and old to learn about nature and the environment.
With careful 'close-to nature' management, native woodlands can provide valuable timber and non-timber products and services. A recent study carried out for Woodlands of Ireland found that our current native forests contribute up to €140 million each year to the economy through ecosystem services, recreation activities, the production of quality native timber products, eco-tourism and climate mitigation functions.
Native woodlands strategy