Why continuous cover forestry could be your 'suckler beef' system with trees
Continuous cover forestry provides regular income while rejuvenating forests and could be looked as like a suckler beef system but with trees.
The first time I met Seán Ó Conláin was 15 years ago. At the time, he and his wife Bríd had just moved into their new home outside Dromahair, Co Leitrim.
As soon as they had moved in, they planted a well-designed, broadleaf woodland wrapped around their house.
This 6-ha woodland consists of mainly ash and oak interspersed with attractive groups of birch, rowan, scots pine, hazel, etc. Seán kindly hosted a forest walk for me in 2009.
On that walk, we focused on the management needs of a young broadleaf woodland.
Four years later in 2013, he bought an adjoining 26-year old 8-ha spruce plantation. “That’s my pension,” he told me.
As he looked at various management options, he became interested in Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF).
With the help of his forestry consultant Paddy Purser and his forestry contractor Alan Cole, he set about gradually transforming this even-aged plantation to a CCF forest.
Fast forward to 2018, time for a repeat visit I thought. Once again, Seán agreed to host a walk last week focusing this time on CCF.
What is Continuous Cover Forestry?
Continuous Cover Forestry (or close-to-nature forestry) is the norm in Europe but the exception in Ireland.
With CCF, you retain forest cover. The forest consists of trees of all ages and makes use of natural forest processes.
Tree harvesting provides a regular, sustained income, but also rejuvenates the forest and makes room for new generations of trees to grow into the canopy.
These usually come from natural regeneration but can also come from tree planting.
In essence, the harvested timber is your regular ‘interest’ generated by the growing, retained forest ‘capital’.
It is a bit like the suckler beef system, the suckler cows are your capital and the calves your interest.
In contrast, clearfell forestry remains the dominant forest management system in Ireland: all the trees are felled at the same time, the timber sold and the area replanted.
Management operations for Continuous Cover Forestry
Access is of critical importance when managing a forest. Therefore, Seán built a forest road in 2014.
The total cost came to €14,500, offset by a grant of €12,000.
A year later, the first transformation thinning was carried out in the upper section.
Paddy marked the trees: 158t pulp, 85t box and 135t sawlog was harvested.
Earlier this year, a second thinning was carried out in the upper section and a first thinning in the lower section.
This time, 292t pulp, 115t box and 87t sawlog was removed.
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