'We can no longer stick our heads in the sand - Ophelia was linked to climate change'

Steven Meyen
Steven Meyen
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

We can't "stick our heads in the sand any longer" when it comes to the impact climate change is having on Irish trees, Teagasc forestry advisor Steven Meyen has warned.

Mr Meyen argues that weather events like Storm Ophelia prove that we need to adopt a European model of forestry management if we want to make our trees more climate change-proof.

This includes planting a wider variety of tree species and reducing our reliance on spruce.

"Climate change is a huge issue; we can no longer stick our heads in the sand because the storm was undoubtedly linked to climate change. We are having more events like Ophelia and they will become more frequent and harder to predict," said Mr Meyen.

"I do believe that it would help if Ireland moved from a more clear-fell model to a continental European model of management and adopt a close-to-nature forestry principle.

"We need to have a wider variety of species than spruce."

He added that "more focused research" will be needed if we want to introduce new species on to our plantations and that by adding new varieties we will be ready to deal with new diseases that may arise as a result of changing climate conditions.

"By having a pool of different species we will be more able to deal with the bite of climate change," he said.

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"New diseases may come to the foreground as climate change comes on stream so we need to be ready to tackle them in a more serious manner."

While events like Ophelia will inevitably cause damage to trees, Mr Meyen said forest owners can be more proactive when it comes to damage limitation.

"Forest owners need to be proactive and thinning needs to be done in good time," he said.

"Forest owners need to walk around their forest regularly in order to understand their trees better and to keep an eye on what trees aren't performing so well."

Teagasc's health and safety officer John McNamara reminded farmers to not attempt to cut fallen trees unless they had adequate training.

"We all saw the footage on the news last week of people using chainsaws without proper protective clothing. Do not get involved in cutting fallen trees," he urged.

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