National forest estate reaches 11% of the total land area

Ireland’s national forest estate has continued to expand and reached 11% of the total land area in 2017, according to the findings of the third National Forest Inventory (NFI).

The publication of the main findings of the NFI was announced this morning by the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for forestry, Andrew Doyle.

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, the department added.

Undertaken every five years, the NFI is the culmination of three years’ work by the department to record and assess the extent and nature of Ireland’s forests – both public and private.

Commenting on the development, Minister Doyle said: “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.”

Continued expansion

Furthermore, the minister explained that – overall – Ireland is continuing to see its national forest estate expand, with a wide variety of forest types present.

The minister added: “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 Midterm 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 and 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.”

Tackling climate change

In conclusion, 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 underpinned 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.