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Bird diversity in native and plantation woodlands

PhD research project

PhD student: Oisín Sweeney
Supervisors: Prof. John O'Halloran & Dr. Tom Kelly 
Funder: Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine


Project Description: 
The increasing area of plantation forest in Ireland poses both local and landscape scale challenges for birds as well as other plants and animals. However, afforestation and the planting of harvested forest plantations  provides excellent opportunities to develop future plantations in a way that benefits bird diversity.

This study investigated the patterns and processes of bird diversity in Irish forests to underpin future forest policy, planning and management. Bird diversity and abundance were measured, using standard point count methodology, in a range of forest types throughout Ireland including second rotation Sitka spruce plantation forests, pure Norway spruce plantations, mixed Norway spruce (with oak or Scots pine) plantations and semi-natural oak and ash plantations. Habitat characteristics of all study sites were also recorded to investigate their influence on bird populations and assemblages and to shed light on the mechanisms behind the observed patterns of bird diversity in Irish forests.


Point count survey of birds in a plantation forest‌



  • Sweeney, O.F., Kelly, T.C., Irwin, S., Wilson, M.W. & O'Halloran, J. 2012. Woodlands, Forest and Scrub. In: Bird habitats in Ireland (Nairn, R & O'Halloran, J. Eds). pp.105-123.
  • Sweeney, O.F., Wilson, M.W., Irwin, S., Kelly, T.C., Gittings, T. & O'Halloran, J. 2011. Breeding birds of native woodlands and plantation forests in Ireland. Irish Birds, 9: 181-196.
  • Sweeney, O.F.,Wilson, M.W., Irwin, S., Kelly, T.C. & O'Halloran, J. 2010.  The influence of a native tree species mix component on bird communities in non-native coniferous plantations in Ireland.  Bird Study, 57 (4): 483-494. 
  • Sweeney, O.F.,Wilson, M.W., Irwin, S., Kelly, T.C. & O'Halloran, J. 2010.  Breeding bird communities of second rotation plantations at different stages of the forest cycle.  Bird Study, 57 (3): 301-314.
  • Sweeney, O.F.,Wilson, M.W., Irwin, S., Kelly, T.C. & O'Halloran, J. 2010. Are bird density, species richness and community structure similar between native woodlands and non-native plantations in an area with a generalist bird fauna?  Biodiversity & Conservation, 19 (8): 2329-2342.
  • Sweeney, O.F., Martin, R.D., Irwin, S., Kelly, T.C., O'Halloran, J., Wilson, M.W. & McEvoy, P.M. 2010.  A lack of large-diameter logs and snags characterises dead wood patterns in Irish forests. Forest Ecology and Management, 259: 2056-2064.
  • O'Connell, S., Irwin, S., Wilson, M.W., Sweeney, O.F., Kelly, T.C. and O'Halloran, J. 2012. How can forest management benefit bird communities? Evidence from eight years of research in Ireland. Irish Forestry, 69: 44-57.

Planning and Management Tools for Biodiversity in a Range of Irish Forests

PLANFORBIO Research Programme, Dept. of Zoology, Ecology & Plant Science, University College Cork, Distillery Fields,North Mall, Cork, Ireland