One in every 10 hectares of land is now planted in forestry, according to the latest figures. The Government’s Forestry Statistics paint a picture of the country’s afforested grounds amid increasing pressure to up volume of lands under trees due to greenhouse gas emissions targets. Despite Ireland falling far short of planting targets, the area of forest is estimated to stand at 731,650ha or 10.5% of the total land area of the country. Around 53% or 389,356ha is in public ownership, mainly Coillte.
The forested area acts as a carbon reservoir, amounting to 381 million tonnes of carbon in 2012 and between 2008 and 2012 it removed 16Mt of CO2 and offset 5% of all national emissions. There have been major concerns raised in western counties, particularly Leitrim, over the level of forestry planting in the region. Farmers account for 83% of private lands afforested between 1980 and 2016, with the average size of private grant-aided plantations around 8.8ha since 1980. It states farmer planting has dominated afforestation since 1993. With farmers and non-farmers now eligible for the same rate of grants and premium payments, the number of non-farmers planting has increased to 35% of the areas afforested in 2016. It points out that ‘non-farmers’ include retired farmers, sons and daughters of farmers and other relatives who may have inherited land.
Forestry and its role in carbon sequestration is an obvious part of any solution to the problem of emissions produced by agriculture. In 2016, Cork had the highest afforestation area at 608ha, followed by Clare at 552ha, Roscommon at 435ha, Leitrim at 434ha and Mayo at 429. There were 34 ‘non-farmers’ who accounted for 254ha in Cork in 2016, while 33 accounted for 238ha in Clare, 26 for 212ha in Cavan and 28 for 195ha in Leitrim. Efforts have been made recently to increase the volume of broadleaves planted by the Agriculture Department, with increased grant incentives, as the forest estate is made up of three quarters conifers and one quarter broadleaves. Sitka spruce is the most common species, accounting for 52% of the forest area. The report warns tree diseases impacting species such as larch and Chalara fraxinea or ash dieback may influence diversity into the future.
TECH4EFFECT is a collaborative research project to increase access to wood resources. Data and knowledge based management will enable more efficient silviculture and harvesting, but also reduction of soil and environmental impact from forest operations with the TECH4EFFECT benchmarking system.
The strategic objective of TECH4EFFECT is to improve the efficiency of European forest management by enabling a data-driven knowledge-based revolution of the European forest sector while also providing key incremental improvements in technology. The TECH4EFFECT (Knowledge and Technologies for Effective Wood Procurement) project recently published a new animation video: https://youtu.be/54DDLTon7rg
The TECH4EFFECT project has received funding under the Horizon2020 BBI (Bio-Based-Industries) programme by the European Union. The TECH4EFFECT project objectives are relevant also for the Northern Periphery regions and GREBE partner countries.
More information about the project can be found under http://www.tech4effect.eu/
“Key researchers unanimous on the climate impacts of forests use”
(Press release of the Finnish Climate Change Panel)
Decision-makers, the media and the public have felt that there are contradictory messages on the climate impacts of the forest use. A new report by the Finnish Climate Change Panel illustrates that key Finnish researchers specialising in forestry are quite unanimous on the central claims related to the sustainability of bioeconomy. Discourse between researchers, decision-makers and enterprises, and the related advanced analyses are still necessary for creating a sustainable bioeconomy.
The Finnish Climate Change Panel surveyed researchers’ insights on the climate change impacts of forest use. Responses were assessed and processed by 28 researchers from the University of Helsinki, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the University of Eastern Finland, the University of Jyväskylä, the Finnish Environment Institute and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. The process included a joint seminar, two enquiry rounds related to claims, and approval of the document.
The main claims approved by researchers:
- It is possible to increase wood production with forest management, but it is not possible to significantly increase the net growth of stem wood in the next decades. A significant increase can only be expected in the 2050s and after.
- Increasing logging and wood harvesting will decrease the carbon sink and carbon storage of Finnish forests for at least forthcoming decades compared to a situation where harvesting is not increased.
- The greatest climate benefit of wood use can be achieved with long-lasting wood-based products that preserve the carbon content of the wood in use for a long time and replace products that have a high-emission life cycle impact.
- In the long term, replacing fossil fuels with forest energy will create climate benefits if fossil fuels are permanently replaced, forest lands are maintained and the growth of forests remains unchanged or increases in the future.
- The model calculations representing the future development of Finnish forests produced to aid political decision-making should be completed with information such as analyses describing the different projected paths of climate change.
- The goals set for the different ways of using forests – such as wood production, carbon sequestration, conservation and recreational use – compete with each other, so it is unlikely that these goals will be reached simultaneously.
- A significant increase in forest harvests may lead to a clear deterioration of the forest biodiversity unless the matter is taken into account sufficiently with the practices of forest management and the forest conservation network.
According to the Climate Change Panel, the result provides a good basis for national and international discussion on the role of Nordic forests in EU policy on climate and bioeconomy. The climate-smart use of forests is an important part of creating a low-carbon economy. So that the path will be consistent and sustainable, bioeconomy decisions must be based on scientific data.” (Luke News)
The Original news article can be found from Luke´s news section under:
The link to the report “Main Messages from researchers concerning the climate impacts of forest utilization” can be found here: http://www.ilmastopaneeli.fi/uploads/selvitykset_lausunnot/Ilmastopaneeli_mets%C3%A4v%C3%A4itt%C3%A4m%C3%A4t_final_englanniksi_%202017.pdf