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Doyle announces publication of Ireland's third National Forest Inventory

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for forestry, Andrew Doyle, T.D., today announced the publication of the main findings of Ireland’s third National Forest Inventory (NFI). The publication of the NFI is the culmination of three year’s work by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to record and assess the extent and nature of Ireland’s forests, both public and private. The NFI is undertaken every 5 years and this is the third Inventory to be published.

Commenting on the publication, the Minister said “The third National Forest Inventory, undertaken by my Department, gives us accurate, up-to-date information about the extent and changing nature of Ireland’s forests. This publication is very much the go-to reference document for anybody interested in the latest situation on forestry and land-use in Ireland. Repeated NFI cycles have provided results on aspects such as forest area change over time and the growing contribution which Ireland’s forests are making to national environmental priorities including tackling climate change”.

In relation to the findings themselves, the Minister added “Overall we are seeing that the national forest estate is still expanding and has now reached 11% of the total land area, with a wide variety of forest types present. I’m also pleased to note that the share of broadleaf species in the national forest estate now stands at 29%. I expect that the incentives for broadleaf planting in the Mid-term Review of the Forestry Programme will further drive this figure. In terms of wood mobilisation, it is encouraging that the volume of timber felled between 2013-2017 showed an increase of 1.28 million cubic metres over the period 2006-2012. This is a positive indicator of increased wood mobilisation and represents a valuable source of revenue for forest owners and a source of additional employment in the rural economy through harvesting, transport and downstream processing”.

The Minister also advised that“the NFI remains crucial in documenting the contribution of our forests in tackling climate change. The carbon resource within the forest has proven to be of pivotal significance in Ireland achieving its Kyoto target under the first commitment period of 2008-2012 and will remain the case for future targets. It’s important that our climate and environmental policies are under-pinned by the most accurate and robust data possible and the NFI is an excellent example of this”.

All NFI publications, including the main findings booklet are available on the Department’s website here. Further information on the NFI and hard copies of the NFI Main Findings booklet may be obtained from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Johnstown Castle Estate, Co. Wexford; Tel: 053 9163400 or email: nfi@agriculture.gov.ie

Note for Editors

The purpose of the National Forest Inventory (NFI) is to record and assess the extent and nature of Ireland’s forests, both public and private, in a timely, accurate and reproducible manner to enable the sustainable development of our forest resource. Reliable, current and consistent information is required to inform domestic forest policy, to support forest research and fulfil national and international reporting commitments.

The Inventory was undertaken by DAFM and involved a detailed nationwide field survey of Ireland's forests using a set of 1,923 permanent sample plots based on a randomised systematic grid sample design. The survey assessed the current extent, composition, condition and change in the national forest estate, both public and private. The information encompasses the traditional parameters such as area, growing stock and species composition in the national forest estate as well as information with regard to biodiversity, health and vitality, carbon content and soil type. Changes in Irish forests can now be assessed through comparisons with the previous two NFI cycles, completed in 2006 and 2012.

Between 2004 and 2006 the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine carried out the first NFI of Ireland’s forests, with results published in 2007. The 2006 NFI was the first purely statistical approach to forest inventory undertaken in Ireland to provide an assessment of growing stock in both the public and private national forest estates.

In order to assess changes in the state of Ireland’s forests over time, Ireland’s NFI was designed using permanent sample plots which facilitated a repeat measurement programme. This robust reporting strategy was adopted to provide credible information to address strategic objectives and reporting commitments. The fieldwork for the second cycle of the NFI began in 2009 and was completed in 2012. The third NFI began in 2015 and was completed in 2017.

The main findings booklet is a compact and comprehensive overview of the results of the third NFI cycle along with a comparison of results with the two previous NFIs. Ten key findings of the third National Forest Inventory completed in 2017 are as follows:

  • The national forest estate is still expanding and has now reached 11% of the total land area, with a wide variety of forest types present. The total forest area has increased from 697,842 hectares (ha) in 2006 to 770,020 ha in 2017. The increase in area is a result of afforestation and the inclusion of pre-existing forests for the first time during the third NFI cycle.
  • Over half (50.8%) of forests are in public ownership and 378,663 ha (49.2%) are in private ownership. The share of private forests in the national forest estate has increased by over 6% since 2006.
  • Leitrim is the county with the highest percentage of forest cover (18.9%), while Cork has the largest forest area (90,020 ha).
  • Conifer species are the dominant species present, representing 71.2% of the stocked forest area while broadleaved species accounted for 28.7% of the area.
  • In general, the forest estate is young with nearly half (44.9%) of the stocked forest estate less than 20 years of age.
  • The total growing stock volume of Irish forests is estimated to be over 116 million m³, an increase of over 19 million m³ on 2012. Gross mean annual volume increment between 2013 and 2017 was 8.4 million m³ per year, while the mean annual standing volume felled within this period was 4.9 million m3 per year.
  • Since 2013, 36,447 ha of forest were thinned for the first time. Overall, the area thinned and clearfelled between 2013 and 2017 increased by 11% and 17%, respectively, which is a positive trend for wood mobilisation.
  • The national forest estate is an important and expanding sink for carbon, at 312 million tonnes. Based on the NFI data, Ireland’s forests have removed an average of 3.8 Mt of carbon dioxide equivalents per year from the atmosphere over the period 2007 to 2016. This carbon resource has proven to be of pivotal significance in Ireland achieving its Kyoto target under the first commitment period of 2008-2012.
  • There is an important biodiversity resource within Irish forests, with many non-tree plant species and lichens frequent across the forest estate. Large quantities of deadwood are present within the forest, with over 10.4 million m3 of deadwood present.
  • Overall, the forest estate appears healthy. While nearly half (44.1%) of stocked forest areas displayed signs of forest damage present, the severity of the damage was low.

 Added 02.07.2018

(From L o R) John Redmond, Head of the National Forest Inventory, at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, with Minister  of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Andrew Doyle T.D. at the launch of the publication of the National Forest Inventory (NFI) near Devils Glen Co. Wicklow. The purpose of the (NFI) is to record and assess the extent and nature of Ireland’s forests, both public and private, in a timely, accurate and reproducible manner to enable the sustainable development of our forest resource.

ENDS

Date Released: 02 July 2018