A forest is characterised as land with a minimum area of 0.1 ha under stands of trees 5 m or greater, having a minimum width of 20 m and canopy cover of 20% or more within the forest boundary; or trees able to reach such thresholds.
- EU statistics indicate that Ireland is one of the least densely wooded Member States of the EU along with Malta, and the Netherlands.
- Forest cover in Ireland is 11% (Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, 2020). This compares with an average 33.5% at an EU level and 30.6% at a global level.
- Sweden has the largest forest cover in the EU representing approximately 68.95% of the country’s total surface area (28 million hectares) and the five largest wooded areas were in Norway, Spain, Finland, France and Germany.
- At an EU level, forest area increased by almost 10 % between 1990-2019 (Eurostat, 2020).
The Annual Forest Sector Statistics Report published by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) in 2020 provides a comprehensive overview of the state of Irish forests. Specifically, in Ireland:
- Forest cover was estimated at 770,020 ha or 11% of the total land area of Ireland in 2017.
- Forest cover was estimated to be at its highest level in over 350 years.
- Of the total forest area in 2017, nearly 391,357 ha or 50.8% was in public ownership.
- Of this, 380,156 ha of the public forest area is managed by Coillte.
- Forest estates consists 71.2% conifers and 28.7% broadleaves.
- Nearly three quarters of existing forest area is under 30 years of age.
- Since the foundation of the State the area of land under forest in Ireland has grown from 1.4% to 11% of the current land area.
- Sitka spruce was the most common species, occupying 51.1% of the forest area. Over one quarter of the forest estate contains broadleaves. Of the broadleaves 33.6% are ‘Other broadleaf species’ (both long living and short living), of which over half are willow. The next largest broadleaf species groups were birch (24.4%), ash (13.1%) and oak (9.2%).
- County Leitrim is the most forested county nationally, with almost 19% of land under forest. This is followed by County Wicklow (17.9%) and County Clare (17.2%) of land under forest.
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