Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 23 September 2018

Ireland's forest cover is estimated to be at its highest level in over 350 years

Glendalough, Co Wicklow
Glendalough, Co Wicklow
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Ireland’s forest cover is estimated to be at its highest level in over 350 years, according to the Department of Agriculture’s 2017 forest statistics report.

The area of forest is estimated to be 731,650 ha or 10.5pc of the total land area of Ireland.

Over one quarter of the forest estate contains broadleaves.

The Government has ambitious plans to increase afforestation in Ireland. However, last year it missed its target of planting over 7,000ha by over 20pc.

Meanwhile in some parts of the country there has been severe criticism of the Governments approach to forestry.

In Leitrim, county councillors have unanimously agreed to amend their County Development Plan in a bid to curb the level of afforestation in the county.

Anti-forestry Campaigners say local farmers who wanted to expand their holdings can not compete with investors buying up land for afforestation who were attracted by the tax free status of forestry.

According to the Department statistics, farmers accounted for 83pc of private lands afforested between 1980 and 2016.

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In 2016, €103.8 million was spent on forest activities including afforestation grants, maintenance grants, annual premium payments and grants for forest roading infrastructure.

The average size of private grant-aided afforestation since 1980 is 8.8 ha.

Since 1980, nearly 21,994 private forest owners have received grant aid to establish forests.

A substantial area of private grant-aided forests changes ownership each year with most ownership change within families from one generation to the next.

Andrew Doyle, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for forestry  said it is also interesting and reassuring to note, that forest cover is estimated to be at its highest level in over 350 years and that over one quarter of our forest estate contains broadleaves”.

The publication provides statistics about afforestation trends, nationally and on a county by county basis up until the end of 2016. 

It tracks forest road building, thinning and clearfelling activity as well as a range of other forest management operations.  Trends in Roundwood prices also feature in the document as does information in relation to forest fire and pest damage.

Some of the key data outlined in 'Forest Statistics - Ireland 2017' report include:

  • The area of forest is estimated to be 731,650 ha or 10.5% of the total land area of Ireland (NFI 2012).
  • Forest cover is estimated to be at its highest level in over 350 years.
  • Over one quarter of the forest estate contains broadleaves.
  • Farmers accounted for 83% of private lands afforested between 1980 and 2016.
  • In 2016, €103.8 million was spent on forest activities including afforestation grants, maintenance grants, annual premium payments and grants for forest roading infrastructure.
  • The average size of private grant-aided afforestation since 1980 is 8.8 ha.
  • Since 1980, nearly 21,994 private forest owners have received grant aid to establish forests.
  • A substantial area of private grant-aided forests changes ownership each year with most ownership change within families from one generation to the next.
  • The total roundwood harvest in 2016 (including firewood) was 3.36 million cubic metres, the highest level since records began.
  • •In 2016, 34% of the roundwood harvested in the Republic of Ireland was used for energy generation, mainly within the forest products sector.  The usage of forest based biomass for the energy sector abated 0.76 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2016, up almost 22% on the 2015 level.
  • The national forest estate is an important carbon reservoir, amounting to 381 million tonnes of carbon in 2012; an increase from 348 million tonnes in 2006.
  • Forests also provide a source of renewable raw materials for fuel and wood products which help mitigate rises in greenhouse gases. Usage of wood fuels is increasing due to renewable energy polices and as young plantations enter the production stage.

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