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Forest Cover Datasets


Since 1995 the Forest Service have produced spatial datasets detailing the extent of the forest estate in Ireland. In order to accurately reflect the changes in the forest estate, there have been two amendments to the original dataset.


Historic DataFIPS95

During the period 1993-1997 a forest classification project was carried out with the objective of categorising Ireland's forests into broad species and development classes (Gallagher et al 1996). In 1996, a dataset, FIPS95, was produced which included the results of the on screen interpretation of satellite imagery and Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) orthophotos.  FIPS95 constituted a national forest inventory, which was derived from a combination of an automatic classification of satellite imagery and the on-screen interpretation of Landsat TM imagery (1993 - 1997), panchromatic orthophotos (1995), and OSi 25" map series. Forest boundaries were digitised to within 2m accuracy of the orthophotos, and where appropriate the OSi 25" map series.  There were 504,000 hectares of forest present in 1995, which included both the public and private forest estate.  


In 1998, private afforestation records were appended to FIPS95, but only for those plantations in receipt of grant / premium aid at the end of 1998.  This new dataset became known as FIPS98.  


Current Dataset


Forest 2007

Between 1999 and 2007 no update of the FIPS98 dataset was undertaken.  Official Forest Service published statistics indicate that some 99,520 hectares were afforested by the private sector between 1999 and 2007 or an average of 11,000 hectares per annum.  Attribute and spatial information relating to 99,520 hectares has been captured digitally in the Forest Service database known as the Integrated Forest Information System (IFORIS).

In 2006 the Forest Service began working towards an update of the FIPS forest cover layer for the private estate.  This new forest cover layer is referred to as Forest07.  The Premiums data were extracted from the IFORIS database and refer only to private plantations.  This includes plantations that were in receipt of premium in 2005, when IFORIS went live.  All plantations with a spatial component in IFORIS were extracted and given attribute information.  The attribute information includes: planting year and species.  As the Premiums dataset contains only those plantations that were in receipt of premium when IFORIS went live in 2005, the earliest planting year available is 1989.

The Premiums dataset and FIPS98 forest estate data were combined to produce Forest07. There are four distinct ownership categories in the Forest07 dataset are summarised as follows:

  1. Private Non-Grant Aided (PNGA)
    The forest area in this ownership category generally includes forest areas planted prior to 1980.  This encompasses old estate plantings, as well as natural succession and other scrub type broadleaf woodlands. This data originated from FIPS95 and has broad species information.
  2. Private Grant Aided (PGA)
    This portion of the dataset was captured from private grant applications which were delineated on OSi hard copy maps.  These forest areas were in receipt of grant aid.  No species or other attribute information is available for this portion of the estate. This data originated from FIPS98.
  3. Premiums
    The private forest area in this portion of the dataset has comprehensive species details attached.
  4. Public
    Forest land owned by Coillte and the National Parks and Wildlife Service are included in this category.  This data originated from FIPS95 and has broad species information.

The Forest07 dataset provides detailed information on 679,485 ha of Ireland's forest estate (Table 1). Over half of this area (55%) is in public ownership and the remainder private.

Table 1. Forest07 owner category by forest area.

Ownercategory  Area(ha) 
 PGA  46,217
 PNGA  85,973
 Premiums  171,402
 Public  375,892

Updating of Datasets



In 2008 the Forest Service compiled a spatial database of privately owned plantations afforested between 1980 and 1990.  The project was co-funded by the Forest Service and Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI).

The project focused primarily on plantations established under the Western Package (WP) scheme, but also included the State Scheme (NPG), Farm Forestry Scheme (AH) and Planting Grant Scheme (PG) as these schemes were operational during the 1980-1990 period.  The Forest Service retains all afforestation hardcopy files in storage at Johnstown Castle, County Wexford.  Due to the duration of the schemes, forest areas with planting years ranging from the 1960s (PG) up to the mid 1990s (WP) were included.

Hardcopy files formed the basis of the data capture process.  The areas identified on the hardcopy maps were digitised using the OSi 2004 air-photos.  The plantation area was then attributed with the species and planting year information detailed in the file. In excess of 27,000 ha were digitised in this project.

Forest07 Update


This year it is planned to update the Forest07 dataset. There will be two sources of data for this update:

  1. A portion of the original FIPS98 data will be replaced with the WP08 data described above;
  2. All afforestation that has taken place since 2007 will be appended to the Forest07 dataset.

Data Availability  


The Forest07 dataset is currently available from the Forest Service. To apply for access to the dataset a Dept of Agriculture Food and Marine Spatial Data Agreement 191212 (pdf 132Kb) must be completed. Complete and sign two copies of the data agreement form. Then send the forms to Noel Heffernan(, who will assess the data request. The forms can also be mailed to Noel Heffernan, Forest Service, Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, Johnstown Castle Estate, Co. Wexford.

Further Information  

For further information on forest cover datasets please contact:

Frank Barrett
Forest Service
Department of Agriculture, food and the Marine,
Johnstown Castle Estate
Co. Wexford.
Tel. 053 9160217