Managing our forests
Scientists, practitioners and policy makers from Ireland and Northern Ireland convened in Portlaoise in Monday December 9th to review the recommendations of the largest sustainable forest management research project ever undertaken in Ireland.
Tom Hayes TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine welcomed the meeting, which addresses forest management and the delivery of economic and environmental services.
Minister of State Hayes said “the provision of Government funding has been a major factor driving this important area of research which will contribute towards an improved understanding of the potential of forest management to enhance biodiversity and to contribute the continued and sustained development of the forestry sector.
Speaking at this meeting Professor John O’Halloran, UCC, described how this body of work will help to position the sector to achieve the growth and environmental targets of Food Harvest 2020 while protecting our biodiversity. He cautioned that “If we strive for economic growth without due consideration for the environment, we run the risk of achieving financial gain at the expense of our biological heritage”. “This is a great example of thinking smart, acting green to achieve growth” he said.
This is the most significant project on environmentally sustainable forest management practices in Ireland in recent times, and offers a unique insight into the ecological processes that determine the importance of Ireland’s forest estate for environmental services. The findings of this work have already been disseminated in more than 30 international peer-reviewed scientific publications and over 70 conference presentations, with more to follow. This work was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, with supplementary funding provided by National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Irish Research Council.
Food Harvest 2020, the industry’s vision for the development of agriculture and food including the forestry sector in Ireland, recognises that forestry practices and policies must be supported by relevant and up to date information. The conservation of biodiversity is a key environmental issue currently facing Irish forestry, and was directly addressed by this project. The findings of this work will be used to enhance the ability of our forest industry to simultaneously deliver on environmental and economic services.
Findings presented at the meeting showed that opportunities for biodiversity enhancement and maintenance, as required by EU directives and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, can be maximised through appropriate forest management. This is true across all stages of forest management including site selection, choice of tree species, landscape configuration and harvesting strategies. One of the main threats, not only to forest expansion, but to our existing forest estate, comes from pests and disease, an issue which was also addressed in this research project.
The findings of this research, come at a time when the forestry sector in Ireland is experiencing the largest expansion rate in the EU, and offer a significant opportunity to optimise economic and environmental goals in tandem for the future of the Irish forestry sector.