Biodiversity of Afforestation sites
Ireland has established a legal and institutional framework to support Sustainable Forest Management (SFM). As part of this process the importance of biodiversity and its assessment has come to the fore. Forestry is a very important industry in Europe and is becoming increasingly important in Ireland. With the industry planning to have up to 15% of the Irish landscape planted by the year 2010 (current forest cover is 9%) there is a drive to arrive at national indicators of sustainable forest management. The species of trees being planted are mostly exotic conifers, though there is a shift in the last few years to plant more deciduous broadleaves.
The project also links closely with sub-project 3.1.2: Assessment
of biodiversity at different stages of the forest cycle and sub-project 3.1.3: Investigation of experimental methods
to enhance biodiversity in plantation forests. The approach to the
assessment of biodiversity in the sites will be similar in each project
and this is outlined in the overall BIOFOREST project description. A combination
of structural, functional and compositional indicators will be used, the
emphasis in this sub-project being on the compositional ones.
methodologies for biodiversity assessment and identify indicator species
in important habitats which might be subjected to afforestation
species composition between a range
of recently afforested sites representing different habitats, and
non-afforested equivalent habitats
the efficacy of the Forestry Biodiversity Guidelines and recommend
methodologies used overseas for biodiversity assessment of
potential forest sites, indicating those most relevant to Ireland
Inventory and evaluation of representative
groups within the plant and animal communities of a range of
representative sites prior to afforestation.
species (or other features) which might be useful indicators or predictors
the main issues in long-term monitoring of potential forestry sites, and
the role of site maps in GIS format
potential afforestation sites for a range of taxa and log data in a format
compatible with user databases
Assess the changes in botanical and faunal
composition and diversity in sample sites during the initial period
subsequent to planting.
The above objectives were achieved by using 24 paired study sites and comparing recently afforested sites with adjacent, closely comparable sites that have remained unplanted. Close liaison with Coillte, Forest Service, private forestry companies and other land owners was required to locate the sites, and the BIOFOREST Project thanks all landowners in particular for the use of their lands.. The location of the sites was stratified according to habitat type and included unimproved grassland, peatland and lowland agricultural sites. Eight replicates of each site type were used.
A targeted approach to the investigation of the biodiversity was used:
and consultation with forestry and biological institutions internationally
were used to draft a suitable methodology for assessing the
biodiversity of afforestation sites in Ireland.
Current knowledge on
the biodiversity of habitats most usually used for planting was
assembled and used to reinforce the choice of indicators of biodiversity
in each habitat type.
· With the guidance of the two above reviews, surveys of flowering plants, ferns, mosses, liverworts, birds, spiders and hoverflies were conducted in a number of study sites. Rare and threatened species and any special indicators were highlighted.
Field surveys were completed throughout Ireland (see map). Eight pairs of sites were surveyed in 2002. Major habitat types in the study were improved grassland, unimproved wet grassland and peatlands, including blanket bog and wet heath. Each pair contained one five-year old afforested site and one nearby unplanted site. Sixteen pairs of sites were surveyed during the field season of 2004 comprising the habitat types outlined above.
Results and conclusions of this project were presented in a substantial technical report which will be available in electronic format from COFORD:
Smith, G.F., T. Gittings, M.W. Wilson, A. Oxbrough, S. Iremonger, S. O'Donoghue, A.-M. McKee, J. O'Halloran, , D.L. Kelly, J. Pithon, A. O'Sullivan, P. Neville, F.J.G. Mitchell, P.S. Giller, V. O'Donnell and T.C. Kelly (2006). Biodiversity Assessment of Afforestation Sites. BIOFOREST Project 3.1.1 Final Report. Report prepared for COFORD and EPA.
In addition to this major final product, the project produced other reports and theses as shown below, and contributed to the BIOFOREST Project overall Synthesis Report. and the major database product. The other products are:
Gittings, T., A.-M. McKee, S. O’Donoghue, J. Pithon, M. Wilson, P.S. Giller, D. L. Kelly, J. O’Halloran, F.J.G. Mitchell, S. Iremonger, A. O’Sullivan and P. Neville (2004). Biodiversity Assessment in preparation for afforestation: A review of existing practice in Ireland and best practice overseas. Report prepared for COFORD and EPA.
A report entitled Project 3.1.1: Biodiversity assessment of afforestation sites was prepared by Jacqeline Bolli during her five-month work placement experience with BIOFOREST in TCD. Jacqueline submitted this as part fulfillment of her Environmental Sciences degree in ETH, Zürich, Switzerland.
A report entitled Relationships between Sitka spruce forest flora and surrounding land cover patterns was prepared by Deborah Tiernan on her work with some BIOFOREST data and remote sensing information, submitted in part fulfilment of her Master's degree in Environmental Resource Management in University College, Dublin.