A total area of 1,222ha has been planted during the first half of this year, according to the latest Forestry Licensing Dashboard by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

In comparison, afforestation during the same six-month period totalled 1,243ha last year and 1,517ha in 2020. The area planted so far this year ranged between 69ha and 290ha per month.

Licences for 1,978ha of new plantations were issued during the first half of 2022, which represents a significant 27% drop from 2,700ha in 2021.

Image source: DAFM

Despite the annual afforestation target of 8,000ha under Ireland’s Climate Action Plan, a total area of 2,016ha was planted last year compared to 2,435ha in 2020.

The monthly target for private licences, with input from ecologists, is set at approximately 220. This does not include Coillte felling licences, according to the DAFM.

In September last year 231 licences were issued to the private sector. However, so far this year licence output only surpassed 200 in January. The number of licences issued between February and May 2022 ranged from 148 to 170 per month.

Up until Friday, June 24, 2022, the DAFM issued 40 afforestation licences; 79 road licences; 111 private felling licences; and 124 Coillte felling licences.

In the first half of this year, 37km of forest roads have been constructed, however the DAFM issued licences for 165km. Felling licences totalled 23,572ha up until the fourth week of June 2022.

Forestry statistics

Further recently published statistics show that, for the first time in the history of the state, the majority of forests in Ireland are privately owned. This is a result of afforestation and the natural expansion of semi-natural forests, according to the DAFM.

Forest area under private ownership has increased from 81,958ha in 1973 to 412,680ha in 2022. The state-owned forest area is also up from 242,056ha reaching 396,168ha this year.

The fourth National Forest Inventory (NFI) estimated that the area of forests in Ireland amounts to 11.6% (808,848ha) of land area in 2022, excluding inland water bodies.

A total of 70% of Ireland’s forests consist of trees that are 30 years old or less, however, the age structure of the national forest estate differs according to ownership, the DAFM said.