Forestry in Ireland
Aine Ni Dhubhain, Senior Lecturer UCD Forestry, reviews the current state of Irish forestry and current EU projects underway with in the sector.
20 July 2015
A programme of State, EU and private investment in afforestation has resulted in forest cover increasing from only 1% in 1900 to the current level of 11%. Consequently, forestry is playing an increasingly important economic, environmental and social role in Ireland. The forest industry, comprising the growing, harvesting and processing of forest products, makes a significant and growing contribution to the Irish economy.
Total output in 2012 was approximately €2.3 billion, while total roundwood production from Irish forests was 3.04 million cubic metres in 2013. This roundwood was processed primarily by the sawmill industry (producing sawn timber, pallets and stake; 60% of which is exported) and by the panel board industry (producing wood based panels; 89% of which is exported). An increasing proportion of roundwood is being used for energy generation, mainly within the forest products sector although the use of firewood is also increasing.
This increased use of energy derived from wood-biomass in Ireland has resulted in an estimated greenhouse gas (GHG) emission saving of 3.67 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), and is contributing towards ensuring sustainable supplies of renewable energy, in line with the legally-binding 16% renewable energy 2020 target under the EU Renewable Energy Directive. Forests also provide other benefits including habitat for a wide range of plants and animals as well as preventing erosion and providing clean water. They also provide recreation with annual visitor numbers to Irish forests estimated to be in excess of 18 million.
Arising from the rapid growth rates of Irish forests (in some species they are double the European average) and the increasing area of forest, the roundwood that is available to come to market is expected to double by 2028, with much of the increase in wood production expected to come from the more-recently established private forests. However, the sustainable mobilisation of this wood is expected to be a challenge, as there is a lack of traditional knowledge of forest management and associated harvesting practices amongst new forest owners. Similar challenges are being faced across Europe, where forest ownership is changing.
A European project “SIMWOOD – Sustainable Innovative Mobilisation of Wood”, funded by the European Commission, aims to address the challenges of wood mobilisation and to identify ways of increasing it. The project is focussed on 14 regions in nine countries around Europe. In Ireland the region of study is the Southern and Eastern NUTS-2 region. This four-year project seeks to provide solutions on how to encourage and facilitate forest owners to mobilise wood, promote collaborative forest management and ensure sustainable forest functions.
For more information about the SIMWOOD project, go to www.simwood-project.eu or contact Aine Ni Dhubhain (email@example.com). The SIMWOOD project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research; technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 613762.