Awareness of biodiversity
Status of biodiversity
Threats to biodiversity
Measures that safeguard biodiversity
Measures that mainstream biodiversity
Benefits derived from biodiversity and ecosystem services
Impacts on biodiversity outside of Ireland
Knowledge of Irish biodiversity
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In the past 20 years, there have been three national surveys estimating the extent of forest cover in Ireland: the Forest Inventory Planning System 1998 (FIPS), and the National Forest Inventory (NFI) conducted in 2004-2006 and 2009-2012. FIPS, a remote-sensed inventory of forest cover produced from aerial photographs and satellite imagery, estimated the national native forest cover of mixed and broadleaf woodland not dominated by beech (a non-native tree species) to be 82,321 ha or 1.2% of the state. The NFI involved a detailed survey of permanent forest sample plots (500 m2) selected randomly across a 2 x 2 km grid (17,423 points nationally), 1,742 plots were surveyed 2004-2006 (Anon., 2007) and 1,827 surveyed 2009-2012 (Anon., 2013).
The most recent NFI estimates that the total area under native broadleaf and mixed forest to be 182,520 ha, an increase of 42,190 ha from the NFI estimate in 2006 and an increase of 100,210 on the FIPS estimate in 1995. However, these estimates include stands of trees of both native (>80% native tree species) and mixed (20-80% native tree species) status. The estimate of the area of native stands (>80% native tree species), reported in the 2009-2012 NFI but not in the previous surveys, is 100,510 ha or 1.4% of Ireland’s terrestrial area.
The NFI also estimates the area of hedgerow (linear features < 20 m with tree and/or shrubs present) and scrub (areas dominated by woody vegetation 0.5 – 5 m in height) habitats. The estimate of the mean areas of both habitats has declined from 2006-2012 by 450 ha for hedgerows and 5510 ha for scrub, but both declines lie within the margin of error of the estimate and, therefore, it is unclear whether these represent genuine declines.
In terms of the conservation status of our native woodlands, the National Survey of Native Woodlands funded by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service, surveyed 1,217 woodland sites across all 26 counties from 2003-2007 (Perrin et al., 2008). A range of criteria relating to the site area, occurrence of rare species, structural diversity and regeneration status were used to evaluate the conservation status of each site, and the impact of invasive species, non-native tree species and grazing were used to assign a threat status to each site. Overall, only 29.9% of sites were of Excellent or Good conservation status, whereas 93.7% of sites had a Low or Moderate threat status.
At present, the current and short-term status of this indicator is intermediate as although planting native (>80% native trees) and mixed (20-80% non-native) woodlands has increased, the net impact on biodiversity when accounting for losses to existing, but highly fragmented, old (continuously wooded since 1830-44 Ordinance Surveys) or ancient woodlands (continuously wooded since 1660) is unclear (Iremonger et al., 2006; Perrin et al., 2010).
More information on the National Forest Inventory can be found here:
More information on the National Survey of Native Woodlands can be found here:
Anonymous (2007) National Forest Inventory. Forest Service, Johnstown Castle Estate, Co. Wexford.
Anonymous (2013) The Second National Forest Inventory. Forest Service, Johnstown Castle Estate, Co. Wexford.
Iremonger, S., O'Halloran, J., Kelly, D.L., Wilson, M.W., Smith, G.F., Gittings, T., Giller, P.S., Mitchell, F.J.G., Oxbrough, A., Coote, L., French, L., O'Donoghue, S., McKee, A.-M., Pithon, J., O'Sullivan, A., Neville, P., O'Donnell, V., Cummins, V., Kelly, T.C. and Dowding P. (2006). Biodiversity in Irish Plantation Forests. Environmental Protection Agency and COFORD, Dublin. 82pp.
Perrin, P.M, Martin, J.R., Barron, S.J., O’Neill, F.H., McNutt, K.E. and Delaney, A. (2008) National Survey of Native Woodlands 2003-2008. Unpublished report submitted to National Parks and Wildlife Service, Dublin.
Perrin, P.M., Daly, O.H. (2010) A provisional inventory of ancient and long-established woodland in Ireland. Irish Wildlife Manuals, No. 46. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dublin.
Ireland is one of the least forested countries in Europe with 10.5% of its area under forest cover, the majority of which represents commercial conifer plantations. This indicator tracks changes in the area of native woodland habitats over time.