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National Forestry Inventory moves into Meath

Mary Wallace T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food with responsibility for forestry, was in Meath today to welcome the National Forest Inventory into her home county. Over the next few weeks a specialist Forest Service team will be examining forests in Co. Meath as part of a data-collection exercise designed to build a high-level national inventory of Ireland's forest estate.

This inventory involves a detailed field survey of Ireland's forests and woodlands and its purpose is to record and assess the composition and condition of the entire forest estate, both public and private, at national level.

Underlining the importance of this project, Minister of State Wallace commented that a lot of time, effort and money has been invested in growing the national forest estate to its current level and said that it was critical at this stage to develop a proper inventory of our forests. The Minister pointed out that while the location and extent of most forests is known, and Coillte Teoranta maintains an inventory of its forests, the composition and condition of much of the remaining private forest estate is not known. "This information is essential to facilitate the sustainable development of our forests", Minister Wallace said. "The survey will enable Ireland to provide accurate national forecasts on the maturing forest estate and assist strategic planning for the future direction of the timber processing industry".

Minister of State Wallace was pleased to note that the project will be completed on time and within budget.

Six professional foresters were recruited by the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture and Food to undertake the collection of the information. Approximately 1,850 potential forest plots were selected at random throughout the country, with the number of plots in each county relative to the size of the county and the level of forestry and then, within each sample plot, a variety of information is collected from the tree top to the soil underneath. The field data collection began in November 2004 and will conclude at the end of September 2006. Wherever possible, landowners have been notified in advance if one of the selected sample plots is located on their property. All Forest Service personnel involved in the National Forest Inventory carry photographic identification, along with written authorisation from the Minister to enter forest lands. The data collected during the survey is currently being processed and analysed. This will continue into early 2007 and the final report will be published shortly afterwards.

12 September, 2006

Note for Editors National Forest Inventory Progress Report

The Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture and Food is in the process of completing the first statistical National Forest Inventory in Ireland. This inventory involves a detailed field survey of Irelands forests and woodlands. The purpose of the National Forest Inventory is to record and assess the composition and condition of the entire forest estate, both public and private, at national level.

At the end of the 19th century the area of woodland and forest cover in Ireland was estimated to be approximately 69,000 hectares, or 1% of the national land area. During the first 75 years of the 20th century forestry in Ireland was almost exclusively carried out by the State and by 1985 forest and woodland cover had increased to approximately 420,000 hectares. The mid 1980s saw a significant increase in private forest development, with the introduction of EU funded grant schemes aimed at encouraging private land owners, mainly farmers, to become involved in forestry. As a result, the area of national forest estate in Ireland has now increased to almost 710,000 hectares. Of this, approximately 45% is in private ownership and 55% is in the ownership of Coillte Teoranta (The Irish Forestry Board).

Despite this increase in the amount of forestry in Ireland, the State does not have an inventory of the entire national forest estate. The location and extent of most forests is known and Coillte Teoranta maintains an inventory of its forests. However, the composition and condition of much of the private forest estate in not known. This information is essential to facilitate the sustainable development of our forests. The lack of information on the composition of our forests in relation to timber volumes, and in relation to plant and animal species, is an impediment to the management of the national forest resource. The survey will

1. Enable Ireland to provide accurate national forecasts on the maturing forest estate and assist strategic planning for the future direction of the timber processing industry,
2. Provide accurate data on the volume of timber, and area of the national forest estate, thereby facilitating the calculation of carbon estimates for Kyoto reporting
3. Provide information on the biodiversity within our forests and facilitate the management of our natural heritage.

Approximately 1,850 potential forest plots have been selected at random throughout the country, with the number of plots in each county relative to the size of the county and the level of forestry. Each plot measures 25.2 meters in diameter and comprises approximately 500m2.

Within each sample plot a variety of information is collected from the tree top to the soil underneath. For example, information is being collected on tree growth and development, with particular emphasis on the presence of any disease or pests, and on the type of plants and animals present in the plot. Soil type and drainage information is also recorded, making it the most comprehensive survey of forest soils ever undertaken.

To facilitate the collection of this information the Forest Service recruited 6 professional foresters. As the project now nears completion, it can be stated that the project will be completed on time and within budget. The field data collection began in November 2004 and will conclude at the end of September 2006. Approximately 100 plots remain for completion in counties Dublin and Wicklow. Wherever possible, landowners have been notified in advance if one of the selected sample plots is located on their property. All Forest Service personnel involved in the National Forest Inventory carry photographic identification, along with written authorisation from the Minister to enter forest lands.

The data collected during the survey is currently being processed and analysed. This will continue into early 2007 and the final report will be published shortly afterwards.

Date Released: 12 September 2006