Forests are an important component of the Irish landscape, covering some 10% of land area, but are often considered to support little plant or animal life because of their predominatnly commercial nature. The BIOFOREST (Biodiversity in Irish plantation forests) research project which ran from 2000 until 2006 provided the first detailed study of the biodiversity that is found in Irish plantation forests. The results of that study clearly show that plantation forests are important habitats for plants, spiders, beetles and birds. In fact, BIOFOREST showed that a number of forest specialists such as Crossbills and Hen Harriers are unable to thrive in landcapes devoid of forests. Thus it became clear that plantation forests not only provide alternative habitats for a range of species, but also represent an important habitat in their own right. 

 

While the BIOFOREST project provided the firest information on the biodiversity in first rotation commercial plantation forests in Ireland many questions remained unanswered about the role of forests in Ireland in terms of biodiversity conservation. Among the most important of these were:

        • How does the biodiversity of these forests compare with native forests?
        • How can forest management be used to enhance forest biodiversity?
        • Does the biodiversity of second rotation forests differ from first rotation forests?
        • How might mixed tree species planting contribute to biodiversity conservation?
        • Are there other groups of organisms living in forest habitats that we know little about?.

 

Thus the PLANFORBIO research programme set out to investigate these gaps in our knowledge and focus on particular elements of diversity and aspects of management that were identified as requiring particular attention. These areas include:

        • The provision of habitat for Hen Harriers by plantation forests
        • The control of invasive Rhododendron in Irish woodlands
        • The use of indicators and indices of biodiversity in monitoring and reporting of forest biodiversity. 
        • Connectivity in Irish forests and its relationship to biodiversity
        • The impact of grazing on forest biodiversity.
        • The impact of climate change on forest biodiversity 

 

 

The PLANFORBIO Forest Biodiversity Research Programme aims to provide scientific knowledge to underpin sustainable forest management that is compliant with local and international regulations including the the Convention on Biological Diversity (for further information click here), the EU Birds and Habitats Directives (for further information click here) and Ireland's Environmental Guidelines (for further information click here).

 

    

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