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Darragh McCullough: 'It's time to debunk some myths about the supposedly relentless march of Sitka spruce'

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Barking up the wrong tree: Without Sitka spruce there would be no commercial planting of broadleaves

Barking up the wrong tree: Without Sitka spruce there would be no commercial planting of broadleaves

Barking up the wrong tree: Without Sitka spruce there would be no commercial planting of broadleaves

I'm sick to the teeth of reading lazy, half-assed smear pieces about Sitka spruce. Here are five myths about Ireland's most valuable tree that need to be busted:

1 Sitka is "marching across the Irish landscape" is a popular notion in some quarters. Yet it covers less than six per cent of the country and is accounting for a declining share of plantings in the last 10 years. Currently, it accounts for 45pc of our forest area or 343,000ha, which, by way of comparison, is less than 10pc of the area currently in grass.

2 Sitka creates biodiversity deserts. "Everything is dead in there. Nothing is living," is another quote I see regularly. But studies by Coford have established that conifer plantations were either neutral or positive for biodiversity. By virtue of the fact that there is so little interference by humans during the lifetime of the crop, wildlife that wouldn't normally cope with the normal farm regime of fertilisers, grazing, sprays and harvest thrive in young forestry plantations. Of course, Sitka forests are dark, quiet habitats when they close canopy, but that is a habitat too.


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