Afforestation

State afforestation in Ireland was relatively low until the 1950s, but thereafter increased up to the year 2000, after which planting decreased to negligible levels. A critical factor in the lack of afforestation from 2000 onwards was the decision by the European Commission in 1999 that Coillte, the State's forestry body, was not entitled to receive annual forest premiums. As a result, Coillte reviewed its planting programmes and had not engaged in afforestation to any appreciable extent since (Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine). 

Bord na Móna and Coillte have however, just announced (October, 2019) that they will collaborate to transform 15,000 hectares of disused peatlands into native forests and aim to see approximately 600,000 trees established. This initiative supports the recently published (June, 2019) Climate Action Plan, which commits to planting 20 million trees annually over the next 20 years. A mix of native Irish trees will be planted including downy birch, Scots pine, alder, Hazel and Holly. These actions will also support achieving climate action targets through the reduction of emissions and the creation of carbon sinks and stores. For further information on the project see the Bord na MÓna website. 

  • Private afforestation grew in the mid-eighties: over 279,979 ha of private forests were established between 1980 and 2015.
  • The percentage of broadleaf afforestation significantly increased after 1993, and up to the present, amounting to 23% of all afforestation since that year.
  • Tree diseases such as Phytophthora ramorum (mainly larch) and Chalara fraxinea (ash) may influence species diversity in the future.
  • 83% of the forests afforested since 1980 have been planted by farmers; the average size of private grant-aided afforestation since 1980 is 8.9 ha.
  • Since 1980, nearly 21,994 unique private forest owners have received grants to establish forests.
  • Over half (54.1%) of all individual owners have received afforestation grant aid at least twice since 1980, which should contribute to management efficiencies, due to the increased size of the individuals holding.

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