Minister of State with responsibility for Forestry at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Senator Pippa Hackett, have announced the publication of the department’s annual Forest Statistics Ireland Report for 2022. This report is prepared annually by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Launching ‘Ireland Forest Statistics 2022’, the Minister said, “overall the national forest estate is still expanding and has now reached 11.6% of the total land area or 808,848 hectares. This expansion in the total forest area is as a result of direct afforestation and also the natural expansion of semi-natural forests. For the first time in the history of the state, the area of privately owned forests exceeds the area of publicly owned forests.”
Noting the decreasing trend in the area being afforested annually, the Minister said, “this is something that needs to be addressed and the work of Project Woodland will be key in establishing a way forward through the development of a new forest strategy and forestry programme. Incentivising the creation of new forests through our new forestry programme, which will come into place in January 2023, will be essential to meeting not only our economic objectives but also our climate change targets and our aims in terms of enhancing biodiversity. Although afforestation was low last year, I am pleased that the proportion of broadleaves being afforested increased from 34% in 2020 to 41% in 2021. A similar increase occurred in the Native Woodland Establishment scheme operated by my department, from 18.9% in 2020 to 29.6% in 2021.”
Commenting on the report the Minister said, “earlier this year, my department completed field data collection on the fourth cycle of the National Forest Inventory. A wide variety of information was collected on Ireland’s forests estate including information on forest area and species composition, growing stock, biodiversity, forest health and carbon content. This latest inventory cycle will provide important information on aspects such as forest area change, volume increment and harvesting.”
Further and more detailed results from the fourth cycle of the National Forest Inventory will released later in the year when the data analysis is completed.
10 key statistics from ‘Forest Statistics – Ireland 2022’:
1. The national forest estate is still expanding and has now reached 11.6% of the total land area, with a wide variety of forest types present. The total forest area has increased from 770,020 hectares (ha) in 2017 to 808,848 ha at present. The increase in area is a result of afforestation and natural expansion of semi-natural forests.
2. During 2021, 2,016 ha of new forests were created. Cork had the highest afforestation area at 343 ha followed by Roscommon at 190 ha.
3. Nationally, conifer species are the dominant species present, representing 69% of forest area while broadleaved species accounted for 31%.
4. The proportion of broadleaves in new forests created during 2021 is 41%, an increase of 7% over 2020. A similar increase occurred in the Native Woodland Establishment scheme operated by the department, from 18.9% in 2020 to 29.6% in 2021.
5. More than half (50.9%) of forests are in private ownership, with the remainder in public ownership. Farmers have accounted for 81% of private lands afforested between 1980 and 2021.
6. Since 1980, over 23,500 private land owners have received grant aid to establish forests. The average size of private grant-aided afforestation since 1980 is 8.6 ha.
7. In terms of wood mobilisation in the private sector, the construction of nearly 72.5 km of private forest roads were funded during 2021.
8. Felling licences were issued during 2021, for the thinning of 12,494 ha and the clearfelling of 20,709 ha. In 2021 the volume of roundwood removals was at 4.33 million cubic metres. This is an increase of 11% compared with 2020 roundwood removals of 3.89 million cubic metres.
9. In 2021, total expenditure was €69.5 million which includes afforestation grants, annual premium payments and grants for forest road infrastructure.
10. Forests and forest products play an important role in mitigating climate change by sequestering and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. In 2020, Ireland’s forests removed close to 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents.