Leitrim and Cork dominate forestry stakes, new figures show

Currently, forest covers 11pc of Ireland's land
Currently, forest covers 11pc of Ireland's land
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

New figures about the national forest estate show that the national forest estate is expanding and has now reached 11pc of the total land area.

Key findings of the third National Forest Inventory completed in 2017 show that Leitrim is the county with the highest percentage of forest cover (18.9pc), while Cork has the largest forest area (90,020 ha).

The national forest estate is still expanding and has now reached 11pc of the total land area, with a wide variety of forest types present. The total forest area has increased from 697,842 hectares (ha) in 2006 to 770,020 ha in 2017.

The increase in area is a result of afforestation and the inclusion of pre-existing forests for the first time during the third NFI cycle.

Over half (50.8pc) of forests are in public ownership and 378,663 ha (49.2pc) are in private ownership. The share of private forests in the national forest estate has increased by over 6pc since 2006.

Conifer species are the dominant species present, representing 71.2pc of the stocked forest area while broadleaved species accounted for 28.7pc of the area. The share of broadleaf species in the national forest estate has increased by 3pc between 2013 and 2017.

In general, the forest estate is young with nearly half (44.9%) of the stocked forest estate less than 20 years of age, the report states.

The total growing stock volume of Irish forests is estimated to be over 116 million m³, an increase of over 19 million m³ on 2012. Gross mean annual volume increment between 2013 and 2017 was 8.4 million m³ per year, while the mean annual standing volume felled within this period was 4.9 million m3 per year.

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Since 2013, 36,447 ha of forest were thinned for the first time. Overall, the area thinned and clearfelled between 2013 and 2017 increased by 11pc and 17pc, respectively, which is a positive trend for wood mobilisation.

It also said that the national forest estate is an important and expanding sink for carbon, at 312m tonnes. Based on the NFI data, Ireland’s forests have removed an average of 3.8 Mt of carbon dioxide equivalents per year from the atmosphere over the period 2007 to 2016.

This carbon resource has proven to be of pivotal significance in Ireland achieving its Kyoto target under the first commitment period of 2008-2012, it says.

There is an important biodiversity resource within Irish forests, with many non-tree plant species and lichens frequent across the forest estate. Large quantities of deadwood are present within the forest, with over 10.4 million m3 of deadwood present.

Overall, the forest estate appears healthy. While nearly half (44.1pc) of stocked forest areas displayed signs of forest damage present, the severity of the damage was low.

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